The three God kingdoms that coexisted in Once Promised has become just two kingdoms when Lost You Forever rolls around. We’ve spent time in the Gao Xing Kingdom where Xiao Yao’s dad rules as the Grand Emperor, and where her cousin Zhuan Xu was pretty much educated and trained after he started to become a threat to his Xuan Yuan uncles. While Xiao Yao has been running around the world trying to cut off ties with her past life, Zhuan Xu hasn’t been able to reclaim his past life as the Xuan Yuan Prince even if he wanted to. He wasn’t prohibited from going back to Xuan Yuan, but the situation there remains precarious for his safety so he needed to find the right time to go back and start taking the first steps towards taking back what belongs to him. The Yellow Emperor had ten kids (nine sons and one daughter), but all his capable, courageous, and thoughtful offspring have died leaving a few sons that covet power without having the corresponding ability to lead. Zhuan Xu has shown us that he’s grown into a smart, savvy, and much too strategic adult, one who is clearly well-suited for the game of politics and the burdens of leadership.
Xiao Yao”s return to being a Princess finally takes these two cousins back to Xuan Yuan Mountain and it’s a bittersweet return trip indeed. She hasn’t been back since her mom took her away to stash in Jade Mountain, and whatever fond memories she had there is all long gone. She does still have a grandfather in the Yellow Emperor, a ruler who managed to topple the Sheng Nong Kingdom by will power and manipulation so vast the price he paid was losing his wives and many of his children. But if you asked him if it was worth it, his answer would probably be the same as what the Grand Emperor said to Xiao Yao “I gave up everything I have in exchange for everything I want.” That makes Xiao Yao’s personality and outlook so at odds with the people closest to her, because she will never give up anything she has because she wants for nothing. She wants for something so simple – a boring life with Shi Qi – that it’s almost impossible for her to get what would come naturally for ordinary people. This is yet another fantastic chapter of the novel and despite it being so deep into the story, a new character makes his belated appearance not a moment to soon. I said all four leads have alter egos in this story and so far we’ve met Xiao Liu/Xiao Yao, Shi Qi/Jing, and Xuan/Zhuan Xu. Guess who is missing an alternate identity and that’s the fascinating guy that’s finally arrived to shake up the story even more going forward.
Chapter 15 – Thinking of the Past is Easily Sorrowful:
When the first Spring wind blew over the great Middle Plains, Gao Xing’s Eldest Princess wrote a letter to the Yellow Emperor asking to visit Xuan Yuan Mountain on her mother’s death anniversary to pray at her grave as a filial daughter. She also hoped to do her filial duty on behalf of her mother to the Yellow Emperor.
The letter was handwritten by the Eldest Princess and had her seal on it, delivered to the Yellow Emperor by an envoy sent by the Grand Emperor.
The Yellow Emperor read the letter and then let his court read it. There was no logical reason for anyone to object to a daughter wanting to pray to her mother’s grave and wanting to see her grandfather. So the entire court only discussed how to receive the Gao Xing Princess, who wasn’t just the Gao Xing Princess but also the Yellow Emperor’s granddaughter. Her mother died in battle for Xuan Yuan as well. So after much discussion, it was agreed her reception would be as lavish as possible.
When the peach blossoms bloomed throughout the Middle Plains, Xiao Yao left Five Gods Mountain and Zhuan Xu accompanied her as her cousin and at her request. She arrived at Xuan Yuan Castle and her two uncles Xuan Yuan Cang Lin and Xuan Yuan Yu Yang met the convey with her five younger male cousins in tow.
After chatting for a bit, Cang Lin said to Xiao Yao “Normally we would have a welcoming banquet at Shan Heng Palace, but father is very old now and doesn’t move around as well, plus he doesn’t like seeing people and making the usual annoying pleasantries, so your seventh uncle will hold a banquet for the entire convoy and your grandfather will see only you at Cao Yun Peak.”
Xiao Yao smiled “Okay, will Uncle take me to see Grandfather then.”
Cang Lin said “After you, Princess!”
The servants appeared to be keeping Zhuan Xu aside as if no one expected him to go to Xuan Yuan Mountain. Xiao Yao stood in front of the cloud carriage and asked “Is Zhuan Xu gege not coming as well?”
Cang Lin smiled warmly “Father didn’t say he would see Zhuan Xu so we’ve made arrangements for him so don’t worry.”
Another cousin whose name Xiao Yao hadn’t yet remembered also smiled “Older sister don’t worry, we’ll hang out with big brother.”
Xiao Yao smiled and walked towards Zhuan Xu. Xuan Yuan guards appeared to want to stop her but she stared at them to see if they dared. The Gao Xing guards had their hands on their weapons already and everybody paused. Xiao Yao walked right up to Zhuan Xu and grabbed his hand and said with a pout to Cang Lin “When I used to live in Cao Yun Peak, it was always Zhuan Xu gege with me. If he doesn’t come this time, I’m not going!”
Cang Lin laughed “It’s not that Uncle doesn’t want to, but if father doesn’t summon him, then we don’t dare decide on our own.”
“If Grandfather gets mad, Uncle needn’t worry as I’ll accept the consequences!” Xiao Yao tried to pull Zhuan Xu into the cloud carriage but two Xuan Yuan guards blocked her so she looked at Cang Lin “Zhuan Xu gege really can’t go?”
Cang Lin said “Princess, please forgive!”
Xiao Yao’s face fell and she said loudly to her Gao Xing guards “Since Xuan Yuan doesn’t welcome me, back to Gao Xing immediately!” Xiao Yao pulled Zhuan Xu and walked off.
The Gao Xing guards immediately formed a line like they were returning to Gao Xing. Cang Lin could tell Xiao Yao wasn’t faking it so hurriedly said “Princess, please behave!”
Xiao Yao was furious and yelled “Me behave? Would anyone come thousands of miles to not behave? I’m the Gao Xing Eldest Princess, what can’t I get in Gao Xing. My mother died for the people of Xuan Yuan. I traveled far to pray at her grave and to see my Grandfather. All I want is my beloved cousin to come with me. The Xuan Yuan guards have kept me from getting into the cloud carriage. I want the people of the entire world to decide if I’m the one misbehaving, or is Xuan Yuan unreasonable?”
Cang Lin couldn’t imagine Xiao Yao’s personality was so fierce and bitchy and she was fairly shrieking like a fishwife on the street. If she left today then things could get ugly and he could be cursed by millions and his father would be furious. He endured and said “Princess you are mistaken, no one is keeping Princess from getting on.”
All the Xuan Yuan guards moved aside and Xiao Yao saw her goal had been accomplished and calmed down to get into the cloud carriage with Zhuan Xu.
As the cloud carriage traveled up to the Peak, Xiao Yao looked at Zhuan Xu who was tightly gripping her hand, his lips pressed together. It had been over two hundred years when a very young him was forced by his four uncles to leave Xuan Yuan Mountain alone. Back then, he stood at the boat bow and looked back at the disappearing Cao Yun Peak and vowed: I will be back!
The cloud carriage stopped and the maids came to assist the Princess down. Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao got off the carriage.
Zhuan Xu looked up and saw the plaque hanging over the Palace door, on top was handwritten in their grandmother’s script “Cao Yun Court” in three large characters. He said in his heart: Grandmother, Dad, I’m back! After wandering for two hundred years, I’m finally back! Sorry for making you wait so long!
Xiao Yao looked up at the same plaque, three hundred years ago this Palace used to be filled with the laughter and happiness of her relatives. Today as she came back, it was just her and Zhuan Xu.
Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao looked at each other and then they both step forward at the same time and crossed the threshold into the Court.
Xiao Yao had no expression on her face and walked slowly while Zhuan Xu walked behind her also very slowly.
Xiao Yao arrived at the front of the Court where a white haired old man with a face full of wrinkles, thin and frail, laid on the pallet with his eyes closed as if tired and was napping. He heard Xiao Yao’s footsteps and opened his eyes and looked at her with a still sharp and incisive gaze.
Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu both thought of their beloved passed grandmother at that moment and both knelt down simultaneously and said at the same time “Your granddaughter/grandson is back.”
The Yellow Emperor waved his hand “Come here.”
Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu bowed three times and then stood up and walked over to him. Xiao Yao was so casual she sat right own on the pallet while Zhuan Xu remained standing respectfully.
The Yellow Emperor stared at Xiao Yao “You don’t look like your mom, but your face shape and mouth does look like your grandmother, exactly like when I first met her.”
Xiao Yao’s memory of her grandmother was old and shriveled and a face full of wrinkles so she didn’t know if she looked like her so could only smile.
The Yellow Emperor guessed what she was thinking and said “Your grandmother was once young like you. Her beauty and talent was world renowned throughout the vast wilderness. So many men wanted to marry her. Sadly, she chose the wrong person.”
Xiao Yao was stunned and didn’t know what to say to that. She couldn’t agree that her grandmother married wrong, or say that she didn’t marry wrong. Because she sensed that her grandparents had a falling out towards the later part of her grandmother’s life. In the years before she died, her grandfather never came to see her. Actually, other than the time her grandfather grabbed a sword and tried to kill her mother, she never saw her grandfather in Cao Yun Court until her grandmother died. Her grandfather was injured and then he moved to Cao Yun Court.
Xiao Yas was silent as if processing what he said but the Yellow Emperor didn’t mind and just smiled and stared at her.
The Yellow Emperor looked at Zhuan Xu and his smile disappeared, with none of the joy and warmth of when he looked at Xiao Yao, and was instead filled with judgment and careful deliberation. Zhuan Xu didn’t lower his head and just let the Yellow Emperor measure him up from top to bottom.
After a few moments, the Yellow Emperor said “I thought you would be enjoying the high life of Gao Xing and forgot how to come back.”
Zhuan Xu kneeled down “Your grandson made you wait too long.”
“What have you come back for?”
Zhuan Xu wanted to answer but the Yellow Emperor interjected “Think carefully before answering, I want to hear what is hidden inside your heart.”
Zhuan Xu was silent and then looked the Yellow Emperor straight in the eye and said “I want Xuan Yuan Mountain. But there is another reason and you might not believe me, but I really want to see my grandfather.”
The Yellow Emperor had no reaction and coldly said “You have two royal uncles and five younger cousins who all want Xuan Yuan Mountain. If you want it, you figure out how to get it. I won’t help you. Just like this trip back to Cao Yun Peak, only when you walk to see me by yourself will I see you.”
The Yellow Emperor closed his eyes “Don’t think I’m ruthless and cold, if you don’t use your own ability to get something, even if I give it to you, you won’t be able to keep it.”
“Your grandson understands.”
The Yellow Emperor said “You both go rest. I’m living in your grandmother’s old residence and the rest are all empty. You can live wherever you want. I don’t like noise so there are very few maids here. If you aren’t use to it….”
Xiao Yao interjected “We’re used to it, when grandmother was still alive there were few maids around and I remember the weeds in the back palace yard being as tall as me. Gege and I played hide and seek there even.”
The Yellow Emperor closed his eyes and waved them off with a smile.
Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao stepped out of the Court and walked along the corridor to the front section arriving at their old residence in the side. A tall phoenix tree was growing in the courtyard and the flowers were blooming red just like back then. But the swing under the tree was no longer there.
Xiao Yao was in a daze like a dream, walking over while a gust of wind blew the flowers everywhere. She reached out and grabbed a flower, removing the stem and putting the petal in her mouth to suck out the flower honey. She smiled and turned to Zhuan Xu “Gege, it’s as sweet as before.” She handed a flower to him and he also sucked on it.
They were followed by two retainers, one was Xiao Yao’s maid from Gao Xing named Shan Hu, the other was a retainer assigned to Zhuan Xu from Xuan Yuan named Sang Seng.
Shan Hu asked “Princess, shall we stay here?”
“Right here” Xiao Yao pointed “I’ll live in that room, Gege will use that room.”
Shan Hu looked around “It’s simply decorated but has been kept clean and the bedding is all new. The courtyard is a bit dirty so let me sweep the flowers away.”
Xiao Yao yelled “No! When I was small, it was swept every 4-5 days. Grandmother let it accumulate under the tree even if its mushed into a pile.”
Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu sat down in the corridor and silently looked at the phoenix flowers. Shan Hu knew her personality so went to do chores herself, getting friendly with the equally easy to get along with Sang Seng, and the two prepared a bath for Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao. Both were used to taking care of themselves so they washed up alone and then sat down outside for dinner.
After dinner, Xiao Yao sent the retainers off to sleep as she and Zhuan Xu walked along the path to the back mountain. The mulberry forest was still verdant green just like when grandmother was still alive. She looked up at it “In a little while we will have pickled mulberry to eat.”
“Auntie loved iced ones. Back then you guys lived in Five Gods Mountain and I hadn’t yet met you but Grandmother would natter about how Auntie loved it and there weren’t any good mulberry trees in Five Gods Mountain so she would make it here and send it to her. I even helped Grandmother pick mulberry to make iced pickled mulberry.”
Xiao Yao smiled sweetly “Every year someone will deliver it to my mom and she didn’t want to eat it all at once so she would only have a small dish a day. It was icy and sweet and tart, and Gao Xing is always warm so I loved to eat it too. Every time I would fight with my mom to have some and we never had enough. The maids went to pluck mulberry to make it but it never tasted the same as the ones Grandmother sent.”
Zhuan Xu smiled “When the mulberry is ripe, I’ll make some for you. I guarantee it’ll taste just like Grandmother’s.”
Xiao Yao nodded even when the two of them knew it wouldn’t taste exactly the same. But they had lost so much already and neither wanted to wallow in the past.
It wasn’t until late into the night when they came back and went to their own residences to sleep. Xiao Yao thought she wouldn’t be able to sleep but once she laid down she quickly fell asleep and slept soundly.
Until the second day when the sun was high in the sky did she wake up. She heard Zhuan Xu left already to see to Yellow Emperor.
Xiao Yao took her time, washing and eating, before leaving her room and going outside. She saw a swing under the phoenix tree and heard from Shan Hu “Not sure what the Prince was thinking, not sleeping all night and staying up to make a swing.”
Xiao Yao leaned on the wall and smiled, feeling her eyes tear up.
Shan Hu asked “Princess, want to swing?”
Xiao Yao shook her head and slowly walked off, not intending to go see Zhuan Xu or the Yellow Emperor, just wandering. She arrived at her grandmother’s old residence and saw guards standing outside. No one stopped her nor announced her.
Xiao Yao walked into the room and saw the Yellow Emperor and Zhuan Xu playing chess, the Yellow Emperor laying sideways while Zhuan Xu sat up. But their expressions were identical, no expression whatsoever so no one could tell what they were thinking.
Xiao Yao didn’t pay them any heed and wandered around the room. She was shocked the room was much like it was when she was small, it was like her grandmother still lived here. Even her hairbrush and her accessories were still at her dressing table.
Xiao Yao sat at the dressing table and opened an accessory box. Inside was a ruby red headdress that glittered with life as if its owner was coming back right to wear it. But really in Xiao Yao’s memory, its owner never wore it before. She put it on her head and it was magnificent and a crowning glory but it was hard to imagine her grandmother wearing something as flashy as this.
“If you like it, take it.” The Yellow Emperor’s voice reached her.
Xiao Yao put down the accessory and closed the box. She shook her head “A woman wears this for someone to see, or more accurately to entrance a man. If I wear this and a man looked at me, I won’t know if he’s looking at the hair piece jewels or me. What if I mistake his feelings and fall for him for real. Aren’t I just looking for trouble?”
The Yellow Emperor was stunned while Xiao Yao stared at him and casually said “Grandmother really liked you at one time.”
The Yellow Emperor stared at her with anger in his eyes “How can you speak to an elder this way?”
Xiao Yao looked like she could care less “I like to talk, if Grandfather doesn’t like to hear it, then pretend you didn’t hear it. You all are great at pretending to be deaf and mute whenever you want.”
The Yellow Emperor stared at her and then sighed heavily “How did you get this personality? You are totally different than your mom and grandmother.”
Xiao Yao laughed and made a face “Why do I want to be like them? The guy gets all the good stuff but the woman suffers!”
The Yellow Emperor was exasperated and said to Zhuan Xu “Let’s stop. Want to eat?”
Zhuan Xu stood up and helped the Yellow Emperor up “Grandfather, lets walk first since you’ve been sitting for some time.”
The two walked slowly in the courtyard while Xiao Yao watched from the window, reminding her of her mom and grandmother. Back then her mom would also take her grandmother on slow strolls in the courtyard.
They all sat down to dine simply and the Yellow Emperor casually put a mulberry shaped jade badge in front of Zhuan Xu “Cao Yun Peak belonged to your grandmother, every nook and cranny and every blade of grass here was built by her. The first guards of Cao Yun Peak were trained by her. I live here but I have my own guards. The Cao Yun Peak guards are always at standby and now that you are back, they will listen to you from now on.”
Zhuan Xu bowed and accepted the jade badge.
The Yellow Emperor saw that Zhuan Xu was still expressionless and calm and a fleeting look of satisfaction passed through the Yellow Emperor’s eyes. He waved the kids off and headed in to rest.
The two walked off before Xiao Yao asked “Gege, you really want to come back and take care of Grandfather?”
Zhuan Xu nodded.
Xiao Yao asked incredulously “You don’t hate him? I do hate him somewhat which is why I was so biting with him back there.”
Zhuan Xu said “I understand a lot of what he did probably because I’m also a man. In his position, he was not wrong. His choice hurt a lot of people, including grandmother, dad, mom, auntie, you and me, but he also made a lot of people happy. He built Xuan Yuan, he destroyed Sheng Nong, he was the Emperor who united the Middle Plains under one rule. No one sees what he sacrificed and his pain to get there. Do you know, when I was playing chess with him, I knew he had a back injury from a previous battle but he never showed a hint of pain and was always alert and ready to strike. This kind of man, even if he wasn’t my grandfather, I would still respect him. Because he’s my grandfather, I not only respect him, I also love him.”
Xiao Yao sighed “It’s lucky being his citizens, but unlucky being his family. You are such a weirdo, he ignores you for two hundred years and let the uncles try to get rid of you, and you still respect and love him.”
Zhuan Xu smiled “Xiao Yao, do you hate those two maids who were gossiping about you? Because of them you wandered for hundreds of years.”
“No, if it wasn’t for those two hundred years, I’m not the person I am today. I would have grown up peacefully with my dad but I like who I am today. I’m not scared of anything because I’ve lost everything. No matter what I encounter, I will take a knife in my own hand to destroy my obstacle like I killed that Nine-tailed fox.”
“If the royal uncles didn’t force me, I wouldn’t have gone to Gao Xing, and I wouldn’t have seen another world. Without their assassination attempts and plots, I wouldn’t have become wily, calm, powerful in the face of danger. We vanquished obstacles and crushed it under our feet and put it inside of us to give us strength. We don’t see obstacles as bad, and Grandfather is like us as well, which is why he chose to let go.”
Xiao Yao laughed “Fine, fine, I can’t argue with you. I’ll be careful and not try to bait him in the future.”
They arrived at the phoenix tree and both stopped. Zhuan Xu stroked Xiao Yao’s head and said “No need, you can say whatever you feel. You are his granddaughter and he likes your candid nature. Even if you have resentment towards him, he’s not just anyone, he can handle your resentment and anger.”
Xiao Yao made a face and said nothing. Zhuan Xu pointed to the swing “Did you play yet?”
Xiao Yao smiled and sat on the swing “Waiting for the person who pushes me on the swing to play.”
Zhuan Xu pushed her back and sent her flying forward, time and again, the swing going higher and higher. Xiao Yao looked up and watched the sky full of red falling.
The person pushing the swing, the person on the swing, the red phoenix flowers were still as red. But Xiao Yao couldn’t laugh with abandon like she did back then, only smiling as the wind whistled through her hair.
Xiao Yao thought Xuan Yuan had a big memorial ceremony planned for her mom but the Yellow Emperor asked what she wanted “My mom didn’t like pomp and circumstance or a lot of people. If you want to have a ceremony my mom would still understand though.” She was surprised the Yellow Emperor ordered all the ceremonies cancelled.
On her mother’s memorial day, the only people praying at her grave site was Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao.
In the flower covered hilltop, there were six graves containing her grandmother, eldest uncle, eldest aunt, second uncle, fourth uncle and fourth aunt (Zhuan Xu’s parents), and her mom. But in truth, three of the graves were empty and had nothing inside.
She wasn’t sure what was in her eldest uncle’s grave and only saw dogwood flowers growing all over his grave site. Her eldest aunt was married to her eldest uncle but she was also the Sheng Nong Kingdom’s eldest princess. When the Sheng Nong Kingdom fell, she incinerated herself and left no corpse behind so what was buried in her grave was her wedding dress when she married into Xuan Yuan.
She didn’t know how her second uncle died, only that he left a blackened charred bone fragment which was buried in his grave.
Her fourth uncle who was Zhuan Xu’s dad, died at the same time as the Sheng Nong Kingdom’s General Zhu Rong (Little Zhu Rong’s dad). They were both burned alive and nothing was left. His grave was only his clothing. There was also the grave for her fourth aunt who committed suicide.
And then her mother who died with the Sheng Nong Kingdom’s Great General Qi Yo with neither leaving any corpse behind. Zhuan Xu said her mother’s grave contained her battle armor.
Because she knew her mother wasn’t in her grave, she never wanted to come visit. What could she pray to a battle armor? Gao Xing’s palace still had entire closets full of her mother’s clothes!
But when she was standing there with Zhuan Xu, she still felt sorrow even if her mind told her it was just a battle armor.
All their relatives who loved them was laying right here! Zhuan Xu knelt down and bowed to all the graves one by one and Xiao Yao followed suit. When he got to their eldest uncle’s grave, Zhuan Xu bowed an extra three times and said about the dogwood flowers growing all over “This should be the manifestation of Auntie Zhu Yu who was a dogwood wood spirit who gained human form after thousands of years. She chose to kill herself to destroy the demon soul and remove all her god powers. I was at Gao Xing by then and didn’t understand why but Master told me not to be sad. He said Auntie Zhu Yu got what she wanted and passed in peace to be with our Eldest Uncle.”
Xiao Yao silently bowed three more times.
Once they were finished bowing, Zhuan Xu still didn’t stand up. Xiao Yao sat down with her back to the graves and looked at the mountain side full of vibrant flowers. She suddenly remembered when her mom took her to Jade Mountain, they came here with Zhuan Xu to bow to grandmother and her uncles. She went to pick wildflowers with Zhuan Xu, and when they got back, she saw her mother sitting all alone at the grave site. Did her mother know at that moment that she wouldn’t be coming back?
[I’ve translated that section from Once Promised below at the end of this chapter]
Zhuan Xu stood up and started tending to the graves. His power was rooted in wood and earth so he quickly cleaned everywhere. Xiao Yao picked up the flowers he pulled off and made flower crowns while waiting for him to finish. Once he was done, she had made six flower crowns and laid one at each grave.
They were leaving when Zhuan Xu said to Xiao Yao “Come with me to Xuan Yuan Castle.”
They entered the castle and went to a dancing hall and was led to a room with a large center area for dancing. Zhuan Xu said “I want to see Jin Xuan.”
He gave the maid extra money to summon her while Xiao Yao laid on the pallet covered in a veiled hat and looked on curiously.
Zhuan Xu sat down at the zither and played it, the melody as clear and flowing as water through a mountain cave, soaring like water over a waterfall. The door opened and a beautiful girl in yellow came in. She quietly sat down and listened to the song. When he was done she said a poem and then “You finally come.”
Zhuan Xu said “I finally came.”
Xiao Yao said to Zhuan Xu “Gege, I’ll go out to look around.”
Zhuan Xu nodded and Xiao Yao headed out where she saw a dancer performing in the center of the great hall. Xiao Yao stood at the railing and looked down with a smile. The Xuan Yuan dance halls had male and female guests, though still mostly men, but some women wearing men’s attire. Xiao Yao was dressed like a girl and wearing a veiled hat so garnered a lot of attention. She didn’t care, they could look at her while she looked at the beauties.
The dancer was performing and her undulations make her tiny waist oh so touchable and many men tried to reach but were not able to to. Two men walked in through a curtained doorway and one man grabbed the dancer and felt up her waist before tossing her into the arms of the other man “Let this little waist spend the night with you.”
The dancers at the dance halls were performers and not prostitutes so the dancer was pissed, but the second she saw the man’s face her face turned red and she docilely followed the man upstairs. The man laughed and put his arms around her to lead her up the stairs and Xiao Yao felt the man looked familiar. Due to the angle and the curtains, she didn’t get a good look at his face until he was on the second floor and Xiao Yao saw his face fully. Her heart thundered and her mouth gaped open – he looked just like Xiang Liu! But he was wearing fine clothes and his hair was pitch black, and there was mirth in his eyes that was nothing like the normally icy cold Xiang Liu.
Xiao Yao stared at him while he swept a glance over her and didn’t even pause. The other man smiled at her and asked “Little lady, you look nice, tonight you spend with me.”
Another girl grabbed him and coyly said “This lady is a customer, young master please don’t put us in a bind.”
The man left with the pretty girl while Jin Xuan opened the door and told Xiao Yao to come in.
Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao left the dance hall the back way and wandered around the city a bit, having dinner at a famous restaurant before getting on the cloud carriage back to Xuan Yuan Mountain.
On Cao Yun Peak, Xiao Yao sat on the swing while Zhuan Xu leaned against a tree. She kept wondering, was that Xiang Liu or not Xiang Liu?
“Gege, have you ever seen Xiang Liu’s real face?”
“No, every time I’ve seen him, he’s wearing a mask.”
Xiao Yao was curious “Xuan Yuan has him on the most wanted list for hundreds of years but there isn’t a portrait to go along with it. All these years and no one has seen what he really looks like?”
“People have seen it, but Xiang Liu is a Nine-headed demon, and rumor has it that he has nine real faces and also eighty-one different forms. All the people who have seen him have contradictory statements, one time someone described him to look exactly like sixth uncle.”
Was the Xiang Liu she saw just one of his faces? Xiao Yao was curious, but also disappointed.
Zhuan Xu stared at her “But it is weird! His transformation ability is one where even a magical object can’t detect it, why does he need to wear a mask? He can just change his face!”
Xiao Yao said “Maybe he’s like me, he wants to have a true self and is uninterested in magical transformations.”
Zhuan Xu asked “Why suddenly asking about Xiang Liu?”
“I….I just thought of him.”
Xiao Yao didn’t want to lie to Zhuan Xu so told him half the truth, and the despondent tone in her voice made Zhuan Xu’s heart hurt a little. He softly said “You are no longer Qing Shui Town’s Wen Xiao Liu.”
Xiao Yao smiled “I know.”
Zhuan Xu changed the subject “The guy who wanted to pick you up at the dance hall is your younger cousin Shi Ju, the only son of uncle Cang Lin.”
“The person next to him?”
“Don’t know him but he’s not using transformation or masking spell. Though after what you and Jing did last time, I’m no longer absolutely certain about piercing through transformations.”
Xiao Yao asked “That Jin Xuan is your person?”
“I hope so. When Eldest Uncle was alive, he built a vast information network that Auntie Zhu Yu ran. When he died, the network only listened to Auntie. When your mom died, Auntie Zhu Yu was still alive but it stagnated. About a hundred years ago she did bring Jin Xuan to Gao Xing to find me. She handed the network to me per Auntie’s orders before she left for battle. Jin Xuan is also a wood demon. If I am to sit in Eldest Uncle’s spot, then Jin Xuan would sit where Auntie Zhu Yu sat. But whether she is absolutely loyal to me, only time will tell!”
“No matter what, this is your own power.” Xiao Yao looked at him and smiled “Plus with your way with women, I have faith in you.”
Zhuan Xu covered his mouth and coughed twice and glared at Xiao Yao so she stopped teasing him “I was worried you came back all alone but now I feel better.”
“Our elders left us early but they have always been looking out for me. Eldest Uncle is a very powerful capable person, he left me the organization and there are a handful of people left in court loyal to him. My dad left early but I know if one day I controlled the army, they would be deathly loyal to me. My dad could have survived his final battle if he ran away, but he chose to stand in front of all the soldiers and face his own death for their sake. My mom, she left me her entire Ruo Sui tribe of loyal members. And Auntie…..”
Xiao Yao asked quizzically “What did my mom leave you?”
Zhuan Xu smiled and flicked a phoenix flower on Xiao Yao’s face “You. She left me you.”
Xiao Yao kicked the fallen phoenix flowers at him “How dare you mock me!”
Zhuan Xu laughed and Xiao Yao said “But what you have isn’t enough yet.”
Zhuan Xu concurred “Nowhere close to being enough, though I also have my guards from Gao Xing which can keep me alive. But this entire court believes uncle will assume the throne, he once fought alongside grandfather to win the Middle Plains and has lots of battle victories. The army is filled with people who fought with him. He’s also been preparing for hundreds of years and from the Middle Plains to the North and West are his people. There are lots of families like the Fang Feng family who are loyal to him. All I can do now is not die. The rest will take time.”
Xiao Yao said with a laugh “What do you need me to do for you?”
Zhuan Xu said “You can’t have not known that I’ve been using you all this time?”
Xiao Yao said “Be specific so I can see if there is any using I didn’t know about.”
Zhuan Xu grabbed the swing “Let me think. The obvious things I won’t even bother mention, but the non-obvious things….like Tu Shan Jing. He wants to get close to you so I gave him the chance. Then he will help me. If it wasn’t him, I wouldn’t have been accepted into that group so easily. Also Feng Long and Xing Yue, I let them know how much I influence you, so when they think of me, they think of your power behind me. These things are small but tip the scale in my favor. In the future, there will be more and more things, and you won’t even realize I’m using you.”
Xiao Yao said “I feel like I’ve done nothing for you.”
“You did a lot, you see me as someone important so I can use you with impunity. Tu Shan Jing isn’t stupid, right now the power is with uncle so helping me is of no use to the Tu Shan clan. But he knows I’m important to you so he stands on my side.” Zhuan Xu grabbed Xiao Yao’s hand “Even though I know you don’t mind getting your hands bloody, but I mind. Just stand beside me and that is my greatest help.”
Xiao Yao smiled and nodded “I understand.”
The second day when Xiao Yao got up, Zhuan Xu was already gone. She went to look for him at the Yellow Emperor’s residence and saw him standing behind him with two other cousins in tow as officials reported something to the Emperor.
Xiao Yao waited outside and it wasn’t until dusk that they came out. Xiao Yao hid in the dark and watched them chatting. From the outside they looked like the bestest cousins. Young cousin Cui Liang was seventh uncle Yu Yang’second son and he was saying “Tomorrow there is a family banquet, cousins please come.”
The other cousin Shi Ju laughed “Cousin, you know my personality, if there are beauties then I’m there.”
Xiao Yao walked over and shot Zhuan Xu a glance but he smiled “Is there good wine? I go for good wine.”
Xiao Yao had no choice but to pretend to be curious “If there is something fun, I want in.”
Cui Liang stared at Xiao Yao until Shi Ju shoved him and then he reacted and bowed “if older sister wants to go, then please come.” Except he would need to make new arrangements.
After they left, Xiao Yao turned to Zhuan Xu “Didn’t you see me signaling for you not to accept.”
Zhuan Xu laughed “I did but I want to get closer with them since they are the rulers of Xuan Yuan Castle now. If I just arrived and act very aloof, then I’m being rude.”
Xiao Yao said “You just got here and haven’t found your bearings yet. They won’t dare hurt you in Cao Yun Peak, but once in Xuan Yuan Castle then that is their territory.”
“If one doesn’t climb up the spiked vines, how does one get to the summit? If I’m not scared, you shouldn’t be.”
Xiao Yao’s hand was on her chest “I don’t know. I feel…..it might not happen….”
“What do you want to say?”
“I’ll go with you tomorrow.”
Zhuan Xu smiled “I have no objection.”
The second night they arrived at Cui Liang’s residence and it was a small private banquet with the connected young men in Xuan Yuan Kingdom. They were polite to Zhuan Xu only on the surface and Xiao Yao sighed, Zhuan Xu really was climbing a steep cliff wall with spiked vines.
After the banquet started, seventh uncle’s eldest son Yu Hao arrived and brought the most famous person in the vast wilderness – the recent victor in Little Zhu Rong’s Autumn Tournament Yu Jiang who was from one of Gao Xing’s four tribes. Everyone saw him and stood up to give him a warm welcome.
Yu Hao stood next to Yu Jiang and looked very pleased with himself and made introductions.
When Xiao Yao arrived, she asked Ciu Liang not to reveal her identity so she could play without reservation. She didn’t want to meet Yu Jiang so went to the gardens for a stroll. She saw the man from the dance hall who looked a lot like Xiang Liu, he was casually sitting on the pallet with his back to the pole, surrounded by flowers and hidden in the shadows, almost impossible to notice him.
Xiao Yao softly walked over and stood behind him. She coolly squatted down and suddenly said “Xiang Liu, what are you doing here?”
The man barely lifted his head “You quietly walked behind me and I was wondering what you wanted to do. Clearly I thought wrong since you are mistaken.”
Xiao Yao looked into his eyes and the man laughed “Now I really want to be the person you mistook for me.”
The bug in Xiao Yao’s body had no reaction so she got confused “You’re really not him?”
“If you drink with me, I can be him for you.”
Xiao Yao sweetly smiled “Sure!”
The man poured her wine and she gulped it down before pouring him a cup and he gulped it down. A second later, his hand dropped and he wanly smiled “You poisoned me.”
Xiao Yao picked up his hand and touched his fingertips which were red because he was poisoned.
The man sighed “If you didn’t poison me, here I was thinking I was about to get lucky.”
Xiao Yao tossed his hand away and poured him another cup “This is the antidote.”
The man wearily moved his hand indicating he couldn’t reach for it so Xiao Yao fed it to him.
Xiao Yao said “Apologizes, I mistook you for someone else.”
“Every time you mistake someone you poison them? That’s a bad habit!”
Xiao Yao said “I’m sorry” before turning to leave but the man grabbed her wrist “Leaving with one sorry?”
“What do you want then?”
“I am Fang Feng Bei.” The man wrote the characters of his name on Xiao Yao’s palm “Remember and don’t mistake me again.”
“You are Fang Feng Yi Yang’s…..”
“Second older brother. You know my little sister?”
Xiao Yao smiled wanly “This vast wilderness sure is small!”
Xiao Yao left and this time Fang Feng Bei didn’t stop her.
People were enjoying the dancing performances, or drinking and chatting, or playing chess in the pavilion. Zhuan Xu was with Shi Ju and other guys discussing something and laughing loudly. Xiao Yao found a quiet corner and sat down.
Every detail pointed to Fang Feng Bei was not Xiang Liu. He was the son of a powerful family so lots of people would have known him since birth and there was no way for Xiang Liu to impersonate him. But Xiao Yao felt he was familiar but her mind couldn’t rationalize that feeling of familiarity. She couldn’t explain it either, her body just instinctively felt it.
It was deep into the night when the guests started leaving. Perhaps it was because Zhuan Xu lived in Gao Xing for two hundred years, he and Yu Jiang got a long well and talked long after the other guests had left before they headed out together.
Xiao Yao waited by the cloud carriage for Zhuan Xu and saw him standing with Yu Jiang by the door chatting.
If the person standing beside Zhuan Xu was Fang Feng Bei, then Xiao Yao would be on alert. But Yu Jiang was one of the members of Gao Xing’s four tribes and the tribe that was most loyal to the Grand Emperor. Xiao Yao was therefore relaxed and waiting all bored and looking around.
She saw Fang Feng Bei and he was riding on a winged horse at the end of the street. It was dark so she couldn’t clearly see the person on the winged horse but her instinct told her it was him. Xiao Yao squinted into the darkness at the end of the street and thought to herself that all the Fang Feng family members must be crack archers.
Suddenly her basic instinct caused her body to tense up and she turned to where she sensed the danger was from. She saw Yu Jiang suddenly attack Zhuan Xu and he was pushed backwards. Yu Jiang was one of the strongest fighters in the vast wilderness so Zhuan Xu could only avoid being hit in his critical parts but continued to be pummeled by the unrelenting Yu Jiang. Every punch was filled with power and the blasts shattered even the jade lion statues in the front of the residence.
This was the first time she realized the normally soft water could be so powerfully hard. Xiao Yao screamed “Help, help!” but not a single guard came. Cui Liang and Yu Hao had fainted by the ripple of Yu Jiang’s power and Shi Ju was so scared he was hiding in the cloud carriage and shivering.
Xiao Yao realized for the first time that in front of such power no strategy was of any use. At this time, no matter how many smarts she and Zhuan Xu had, only another equally strong power could save Zhuan Xu.
Zhuan Xu was greatly injured and laying on the ground. Yu Jiang picked him up with his eyes blazing hatred and summoned a water sword and sent it slashing down intending to behead Zhuan Xu.
Xiao Yao knew her powers were low but she still rushed forward knowing she would be shattered by Yu Jiang’s water attack. She threw herself on Zhuan Xu and yelled “Yu Jiang, do you want to destroy your entire tribe!”
Yu Jiang’s water sword halted “This is my own actions, unrelated to my tribe!:
“I am the Gao Xing Princess, if I say it’s related then it’s related!” Xiao Yao stood before Yu Jiang and her eyes flashed a coldness that intended to destroy everything.
“You are the Gao Xing Princess, how can you protect an outsider to destroy a Gao Xing tribe?”
“What about you? In cahoots with others to kill Zhuan Xu and bring upon annihilation for your entire tribe?”
Yu Jiang raged “I’m not in cahoots with anyone. He killed my older brother, I am getting vengeance for my older brother!” Yu Jiang used his power to toss Xiao Yao aside and she fell hard on the ground and spit up blood.
Yu Jiang slashed his water sword towards Zhuan Xu “He cut off my brother’s head, I will use his head to pray to my brother!”
Xiao Yao screamed in horror “No!”
Yu Jiang didn’t stop and his sword came straight down on Zhuan Xu. Xiao Yao felt her insides ripped to shreds in pain but Zhuan Xu peacefully smiled instead.
Suddenly a cold chill descended and wrapped around Zhuan Xu and Yu Jiang and turned Yu Jiang’s water sword into a snow sword. When the snow sword struck Zhuan Xu’s neck, it hurt but crumbled into snow.
Yu Jiang’s eyes were blood red in rage and wanted to attack again but an ice wall blocked him. A blue robed Chi Sui Xian walked over through the snow and coldly said “If you want to fight, let’s go elsewhere.”
Yu Jiang was filled with rage and sorrow “Why? You know he killed my brother, why stop me?”
Chi Sui Xian was as cold as a block of hard ice “When you defeat me, perhaps I’ll tell you why.” She turned and walked away and Yu Jiang knew with her around he couldn’t kill Zhuan Xu so followed her.
Zhuan Xu struggled to get up but Xiao Yao screamed “Don’t move!”
She opened her arms and blocked Zhuan Xu’s body and faced towards the darkness. She backed up slowly and Zhuan Xu asked “The Fang Feng family?”
Xiao Yao’s entire body was tense, like a mother animal protecting her young, glaring in rage towards the darkness. She couldn’t see him, but she instinctively knew he was there and he was holding an arrow that could pierce through Zhuan Xu’s neck at any time.
Zhuan Xu’s guards finally broke through the enchantment and arrived to protect him.
That person left!
Xiao Yao let out her pent up breath and her body relaxed and almost collapsed on the ground. In just a few short seconds, she was in more pain than when Yu Jiang sent her flying with an attack.
Zhuan Xu helped Xiao Yao up and she grabbed his hand and got on the cloud carriage. He got in and sat down beside her. Xiao Yao swallowed a pill and then checked Zhuan Xu’s injuries before handing him three pills which he swallowed without a question asked.
Xiao Yao said “There was a guest today, the one who was with Shi Ju at the dance hall, his name is Fang Feng Bei.”
Zhuan Xu said “The second son of the family. The Fang Feng clan is very adept at concealment, and paired with their archery skills, that is why they are famous throughout the land. How did you know Fang Feng Bei was there?”
Xiao Yao shook her head “I don’t know, it was just a feeling.”
This wasn’t a very believable answer but Zhuan Xu believed her since in the split second between life and death he also had similar sensations before.
Returning to Cao Yun Court, the phoenix flowers fell and blanketed the air with its fragrance. It was as peaceful as usual and made what just happened feel like a dream except Xiao Yao’s chest still hurt.
Xiao Yao wanted to go to her room but Zhuan Xu stopped her “Xiao Yao, did tonight startle you?”
Xiao Yao turned back “I’m not mad at you, I’m glad you still have other help and didn’t end up dead because of an unexpected Yu Jiang.”
Zhuan Xu said “I did keep another help in my back pocket and wouldn’t have died in Yu Jiang’s hand, but later if Fang Feng Bei really fired that arrow, I don’t have faith I would have avoided it.”
“Why did Chi Sui Xian help you?”
“I gave the Chi Sui clan one chance to help me, if she didn’t do it then my guards were ready to step in.”
“People think only those who receive help are grateful, but forget that those who give help also get their own satisfaction. If I get close to the Chi Sui family too directly, they will be on guard with me. But if I make them feel like they are very powerful and can help me, they will relax their guard. They will see themselves as rich people tossing a beggar a biscuit, thinking they can close the door to the beggar at any time. But they will already have expectations to see what the beggar does in return.”
Xiao Yao sighed “I think I’m smart enough but compared to you guys, I’m an idiot.”
Zhuan Xu laughed “You’re not. We strategize and plot because we want something. But you want nothing so you have no need to plot against others. The strongest is those who have no want.”
Xiao Yao smiled “Okay, I’m the strongest. You’re hurt so get some rest.”
Zhuan Xu nodded. Today was a double assassination attempt. Yu Jiang’s attack was really to set up an opportunity for Fang Feng Bei to kill him for real. Even with his secret guards, but in that moment it was the weak powered Xiao Yao that put him behind her back and used her own body to shield him.
Xiao Yao suddenly said “What did Yu Jiang mean that you killed his brother? If so, he’ll come back to kill you.”
Zhuan Xu furrowed his brows “I don’t know either, I never heard of Yu Jiang having a brother. If he really has such a deep grudge against me, this isn’t good so I’ll send someone to investigate.”
A few days later, the report came back.
Yu Jiang’s real name was Xuan Ming and his father was a Gao Xing noble but his mother was a Xuan Yuan woman. When Xiao Yao’s mother married into Gao Xing, the Yellow Emperor selected ten Xuan Yuan ladies to marry into Gao Xing along with the Princess. One woman married a Gao Xing noble and they had two sons, the eldest was named Xuan Ting and the younger Xuan Ming. After Xiao Yao’s mother divorced the Grand Emperor, the ladies who went with her to Gao Xing all returned to Xuan Yuan with her. Except Yu Jiang’s mother remained but she suffered the strict rules of Gao Xing and had to endure the world’s disdain for the Xuan Yuan Princess divorcing her husband, so she constantly fought with her husband. One fight led to her husband saying he regretted marrying a Xuan Yuan woman who had no manners and didn’t respect her husband. She actually took a page from the Xuan Yuan Princess and divorced her husband and went back to Xuan Yuan with her oldest son.
This was too embarrassing so Yu Jiang’s grandfather lied that his daughter-in-law and oldest son died. Yu Jiang’s father didn’t go to Xuan Yuan to get his wife and son back, but also never remarried. Yu Jiang’s mother died shortly after returning to Xuan Yuan, and then his father passed after that. Yu Jiang’s grandfather changed his name from Xuan Ming to Yu Jiang and wandered the world together.
Yu Jiang grew up with his grandfather while his older brother was raised in Xuan Yuan and later was appointed by the Yellow Emperor to run a castle. But he was infamous for being cruel so before Zhuan Xu left Xuan Yuan, the Yellow Emperor ordered him to arrest and sentence Xuan Ting to death.
Yu Jiang found out what happened to his older brother before his grandfather passed, but then learned that he was already dead at the hands of Zhuan Xu. He felt Zhuan Xu took his last remaining relative but couldn’t kill Zhuan Xu in Gao Xing territory. He endured until Zhuan Xu left Gao Xing and went back to Xuan Yuan and believed that if he went to Xuan Yuan to kill Zhuan Xu, it was acting alone and wouldn’t get his entire tribe in trouble.
Either he used Yu Hao to get close to Zhuan Xu, or Yu Hao and Cui Liang used him to kill Zhuan Xu, either was possible and impossible to suss out now.
Xiao Yao listened to his story and felt somewhat sad for Yu Jiang and decided not to tell her dad about it.
Zhuan Xu said to Xiao Yao “Killing Xuan Ting was the right thing to do and I don’t regret it. But I do feel bad because his crime was….” Zhuan Xu sighed “Forget it, such dirty history I won’t explain to you.”
Xiao Yao’s injuries healed but Zhuan Xu’s hadn’t but people constantly came to see him and he spent his other free time playing chess with their grandfather or talking with Xiao Yao.
When he could move freely again, he summoned Xiao Yao and they picked mulberries and pickled it.
By Summertime, Zhuan Xu’s injuries had fully healed and the Yellow Emperor gave him tasks. He started getting busier and even attended Xuan Yuan court matters. To make it easier to meet with people, he set up a residence in Xuan Yuan Castle and when he was too busy he would stay there. Xiao Yao was getting bored at Cao Yun Court so after conferring with the Yellow Emperor, she sometimes went to stay with him in Xuan Yuan Castle.
Once Promised Volume 2 Chapter 17:
Ah Heng walked up to the Yellow Emperor “Did Dad you asked Uncle Zhi Muo to come convince me to lead the Xuan Yuan army into battle?”
“I’m willing to lead them into battle, but it’s not for you. What happened to you now, you deserve it all! If Xuan Yuan belonged to only you, then its existence or extermination would have nothing to do with me. But the Xuan Yuan Kingdom is not just yours. It was built on the blood sweat and tears of Mom and Uncle Zhi Muo. It was built on the sacrifice of the Xuan Yuan soldiers, it belongs to the Xuan Yuan people.”
The Yellow Emperor said “I know.”
“When Fourth Brother was trapped in Ju Mountain, I asked Shao Hao as the Grand Emperor for his military assistance. I thought he would do it for the sake of Eldest Brother and their friendship. But he said no….later Dad you must know that Qi Yo came. He wanted to help me but he could only give he half his strength. It was only the Xuan Yuan soldiers who wanted to save their brother in arms who went into battle knowing they would die and still they did it. That was when I truly understood that the blood ties of an entire tribe was so deep, the meaning and power of a kingdom so vast. Even if I don’t acknowledge you, I’m willing to protect this kingdom you rule and die for it! I just learned Uncle Zhi Muo’s only son died on Ju Mountain as well like Fourth Brother did. All over Xuan Yuan Kingdom there are dead sons leaving orphans and widows. I once couldn’t understand why Fourth Brother went into battle to die, did he not love sister-in-law? How could he also leave little Zhuan Xu behind? But now I can understand Fourth Brother. The people of Xuan Yuan did not fail me, so I cannot fail them!”
Ah Heng kneeled before the Yellow Emperor “Dad, if I protect Xuan Yuan for you, will you protect Zhuan Xu?”
The Yellow Emperor solemnly replied “I swear on the empire I am building, no one will ever harm Zhuan Xu. I will teach him well and everything you are protecting will one day belong to him.”
With such a solemn swear, Ah Heng had no further lingering worries so she bowed her head three times before leading Zhuan Xu out the door.
Xiao Yao was swinging on the swing all alone and bored. When she saw them, her eyes lit up and she immediately leaped off the swing and rushed over.
Ah Heng took one child in each hand “Let’s go see grandmother and uncles.”
Along the way there, Xiao Yao chatted non-stop but Zhuan Xu bit his lip and said nothing. When they arrived at the graves, Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu both bowed.
Ah Heng embraced Zhuan Xu and said “Your grandmother didn’t want to be buried here in Xuan Yuan, in her will she asked to be returned to her homeland the Blue Dragon’s Head. But your grandmother was the Empress and your grandfather refused to honor her wishes and send her so far away. I might not be able to honor that wish for her as well so can you promise your Auntie something? One day when you can make the decisions, please re-bury your grandmother at Blue Dragon’s Head. No matter whatever objections come your way, never ever bury your grandfather with your grandmother.”
Zhuan Xu nodded his head firmly “I promise. I will honor Grandmother’s last wishes, I will never bury Grandfather with Grandmother.”
Ah Heng pulled Xiao Yao into her arms “Xiao Yao, tomorrow Mom will be taking you somewhere.”
“A place Mom lived once before. It’s very beautiful and peach blossom trees blooms all over. The peach blossoms bloom in all four seasons.”
“Will Gege come with us?”
“Your Gege has things he must do, he can’t go with you.”
“Oh. How long are we going for?”
Ah Heng didn’t answer and just smiled “Why don’t you guys go play now. Mom wants to talk alone with your grandmother and uncles for a little bit.”
Xiao Yao made a face towards Zhuan Xu and skipped off to pick wild flowers. Zhaun Xu stood there not moving “Auntie, are you really going into battle?”
“Will it be dangerous?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you not go?”
Ah Heng shook her head and there were tears in Zhuan Xu’s eyes and he asked “Why take Xiao Yao away? Can’t you leave her here? I’ll take care of her.”
Ah Heng put her hands on his little shoulders “I know that you are a good older brother! But you are still small and your duty is to learn. Your grandfather used his entire empire to swear that he will take good care of you so I’m not worried about your welfare. But Xiao Yao’s birth is not like you. In the future perhaps there will be many who want to kill her. I’m worried she’ll be a burden for you. So I need to take her somewhere absolutely safe.”
“I’m not worried of being burdened.”
Ah Heng smiled “But right now you don’t even have the ability to protect yourself, you have even less ability to protect her. It’s not enough to not be scared or worried.”
Zhuan Xu’s little hands were clenched tightly into fists and his chest was rising and falling rapidly. After a long time, he asked in a muted voice “When can my little sister come back then?”
“Maybe soon.” Ah Heng was silent for a bit and then forced a smile “Or maybe when you have the ability to protect your little sister.”
Zhuan Xu lowered his head and mumbled “I understand.” He wiped his tears and turned around to run off.
Xiao Yao stood in the center of a field of wild flowers and waved happily “Gege, I’m here.”
Zhuan Xu ran up to her “What kind of flowers do you want, I’ll pick it for you.”
Xiao Yao cocked her head and stared at him strangely. Zhuan Xu was always very strict with himself and normally never agreed to play with her. Today he actually wanted to pick flowers for her?
Zhuan Xu angrily asked “Do you want me to or not?”
“Yes! Yes!” Xiao Yao grabbed Zhuan Xu’s hand “I like this kind of red flowers and want to make a flower crown.”
Zhuan Xu picked a lot of the red flowers and made a flower crown and put it on Xiao Yao’s head.
Xiao Yao laughed “Are you sad I’m leaving?”
Zhuan Xu rolled his eyes at her “I can’t wait for you to leave!”
Xiao Yao took off the white fox tail accessory around her waist. This was the fox tail that the big baddie Qi Yo cut off that her mother saw her playing with it every day so she made it into an accessory that she would wear on her.
“You can have this.”
Zhuan Xu silently accepted it, his hands brushing over the soft fur. He knew Xiao Yao loved this very much and wanted to give it back to her when Xiao Yao thought about it and still was reluctant to part with it so she added “Wait for me to come back and you give it back to me. I’m just lending it to you to play with so don’t break it.”
Zhuan Xu burst out laughing and decided not to give it right back to her. He put it around his waist and walked back to find his Auntie. Xiao Yao followed behind and kept nattering “Don’t lose it, don’t ruin it. My dad told me this was the tail of a nine-tailed fox and is very precious.”
Zhuan Xu stopped and Xiao Yao asked “Why did you stop?” She glanced where Zhuan Xu was looking and saw her mother sitting in front of the series of graves.
Various colorful flowers bloomed on the graves but the view remain desolate and her mother’s figure looked so pitiful and alone. Xiao Yao didn’t understand the feeling, she just felt her heart was very tight.
Xiao Yao wanted to call out to Zhuan Xu but when she saw the look in his eyes, her heart felt even worse and she didn’t dare to even open her mouth. She felt like if she said even one word, the tears would start falling. She softly tugged Zhuan Xu’s sleeve.
Zhuan Xu bit his lip hard and said “Don’t worry, let’s head over.” He pulled Xiao Yao behind him and walked over. Xiao Yao put the flower crown on her mom’s head “Mom, this is for you. I made it with Gege.” Ah Heng laughed and hugged them both.
The Royal Mother stood at the edge of the cliff watching the clouds and the lights dance before her.
The three best friends who once played the world together, two of them were dead and only the Royal Mother remained under the twilight.
Ah Heng walked up to the Royal Mother, and perhaps with the final knot in her heart unraveled the Royal Mother’s expression was tender despite the fierceness that remained in her eyes “Do you have anything else?”
“I want to entrust my daughter to you. Please ensure her safety.”
“Her father is the ruler of Gao Xing, her mother is the Xuan Yuan Princess. Who dares harm her?”
“Her name is Xiao Yao” Ah Heng wrote the characters out “She is not the Gao Xing Princess.”
The Royal Mother incredulously asked “She is Qi Yo’s daughter?”
Ah Heng nodded.
The Royal Mother stared at Ah Heng, and then laughed, with sympathy in her eyes “Do you know? Hundreds of years ago, I knew it was Qi Yo who broke into Jade Mountain Palace and stole the Ancient Bow. But I decided to pretend to be clueless and used the misunderstanding to lock you up in Jade Mountain for sixty years. I had my own selfish reason – I wanted to break your engagement with Shao Hao, I wanted to let you be with Qi Yo.”
“I guessed it later.”
“If it wasn’t for my momentary selfishness, perhaps you and Shao Hao could have gotten together in the end, then there wouldn’t be this crisis today.”
Ah Heng said “I have never regretted being with Qi Yo. I am grateful I have met him in my lifetime.”
The Royal Mother said “I will take good care of Xiao Yao, but what I want even more is for you and Qi Yo to come together and pick her up.”
Ah Heng bowed in gratitude to the Royal Mother. She called Xiao Yao here and ordered her to listen to the Royal Mother, to not just play but remember to develop and train her powers.
Xiao Yao was bold since birth and having a new place to play made her all excited. She scrambled everywhere and wanted to run off to play immediately but Ah Heng grabbed her “Xiao Yao……” Her eyes were filled with utter longing and desperation.
Xiao Yao stared at her mother oddly “Mom?”
Ah Heng fixed her clothes and grabbed the jade around her neck “Do you remember what Mom told you?”
“I remember, to keep this safe because there is something very important inside.”
Ah Heng tightly embraced Xiao Yao, so tightly that Xiao Yao squirmed in pain “Mom, it hurts!” and squirmed out of her arms. Ah Heng let her go “Go play.”
Xiao Yao skipped off after the Royal Mother but after taking a few steps, she turned back “Mom, you have to come soon to pick me up. My fox tail is still with Gege.”
“Hhhmmm.” Ah Heng couldn’t speak so she could only nod firmly.
Lie Yang flew down from the tree and transformed into a person “Can we leave now?”
Ah Heng said to Lie Yang “You stay here and help me watch over Xiao Yao. If I can’t come back, then you must wait until the world is at peace before letting her off Jade Mountain.”
Lie Yang coldly huffed “Don’t even think about it. We live, we live together! We die, we die together!”
“After experiencing so much, I discovered it is easy to die but much harder to live. And the last person living is the hardest.” Ah Heng kneeled down before Lie Yang “I can only hand the hardest task to you. Can you bear having Ah Bi take on this task in your place?”
Lie Yang couldn’t say anything and could only coldly stare at Ah Heng but in his beautiful green eyes there was a glimmer of tears.
Ah Heng’s eyes were completely filled with tears and she stood up and said to Ah Bi “Let’s go.”
Ah Bi stared at Lie Yang through his tears and then flew into the sky. Lie Yang stood there not moving with his head staring at the ground the entire time. They thought they would be a family for this life and this lifetime. They weren’t scared of death, so no matter life or death they would always be together, him and Ah Bi and Ah Heng. But who knew there would be a time when one of them would have a reason to force him to keep on living.