The last chapter of Lost You Forever was a much needed dense back story of Xiao Yao and her cousin Zhuan Xu, but it also pushed the story forward in a new direction now that everyone is back at Xuan Yuan Mountain. From the Southern tips of Gao Xing to the Northern edges of Xuan Yuan, the vast wilderness is great indeed and any ambitious leader wanting to rule over it all would find that getting there is merely the tip of the iceberg. I feel like Xiao Yao doesn’t really have a purpose in life but that’s fine with me. When she was Wen Xiao Liu we saw her do a lot of good as a healer and family provider, but it wasn’t like she had greater aspirations. To live is all she wanted, and if she was lucky she would be able to live and enjoy the life she is living. Right now she’s lucky because she’s back to being a Princess with all the trappings of wealth and power but none of the hands dirtying stuff. While Zhuan Xu is off plotting how to wrestle power from his uncles and cousins, XIao Yao gets to poke around and wonder what she wants to do? Jing still has years left to fulfill his promise to marry her but she’s hardly the type to sit and embroider and gossip with other girls. Our impertinent and odd little tomboy princess has one hobby and one hobby only – concocting poisons. Will she find a new playmate now that Xiang Liu can’t swing on by whenever he wants anymore? Or will she find a new hobby, one less dangerous to others and maybe equal helpful to her own well being. And how is the person who hates waiting going to handle actually waiting for Jing to free himself and come be with her? She promised not to let another man into her heart, but what if there already is another man in her heart before she made that promise?
Chapter 16 – Missing You, Hating You, It’s Not Worth It:
From their Ying Province island parting until now, it had gone from Winter to Summer and half a year had passed. Jing only contacted Xiao Yao once, to thank Zhuan Xu for his hospitality and in the thank you gift package there were nine bottles of green plum wine. Zhuan Xu might not know what was meant for Xiao Yao in the gift package but he guessed it wasn’t all meant for him. He got the present and called Xiao Yao over “I don’t understand your secret language. You go pick it out.”
Xiao Yao picked out the nine bottles of plum wine all in white jade bottles with a row of red plum blossoms. It was very ordinary bottles but Xiao Yao felt a warmth surrounding her.
Those nine bottles accompanied Xiao Yao from Five Gods Mountain to Cao Yun Court in Xuan Yuan Mountain.
The plum wine, Xiao Yao drank it slowly until she had only one bottle left. She was reluctant to drink it and held on to it while putting the eight finished bottles away.
She wanted to drink the last bottle but wanted to wait for another new batch to arrive before drinking it.
Late at night she would play with the bottles in bed. Sometimes Xiao Yao would smile, but sometimes she would feel sorry for herself.
She waited half a year and never heard again from Jing.
One night, she laid on the pallet playing with the nine bottles, rolling them around on the blanket. It rested on the white sheets and the nine cherry blossoms bloomed brightly. Xiao Yao suddenly thought of Jade Mountain, she waited for her mother there for seventy years and never got anything. In her lifetime, she never wanted to wait for another person again.
Xiao Yao opened the last bottle and instead of drinking it slowly, she downed it all at once. She put the nine bottles away and never took it out to play with again.
Xiao Yao started spending more time developing her poisons. Late into the night, she would lay on the pallet playing with her poisons and thinking of how to make it even better in terms of prettier and not necessarily more poisonous.
She had memorized the Sheng Nong Herb Manuel left by the Flame Emperor, who the entire world regarded as the progenitor of medicine. She also flipped through all the Gao Xing and Xuan Yuan medical books. She didn’t doubt her poisons ability to be deadly, she just wanted to make it look pretty. She stared at the phoenix flower and researched a few days and worked a few nights and finally created a perfect replica of the small red phoenix flower with the same intoxicating fragrance. She made the poison layered on it like the morning dew.
Every one of her poisons was one of her longing, one of her missing, one of her feelings. She created it and watched it come to life in her hands, and then carefully put it away to send out.
Xiao Yao wondered what Xiang Liu would think when he saw the poisons? Would he call her a weirdo pervert?
Xiao Yao put the finished poisons in boxes and went to the messenger service ran by the Tu Shan clan and handed it to them “Deliver this to the Qing Shui Town brothel.”
Xiao Yao paid the expensive price to deliver it to the edge of Xuan Yuan and didn’t blink an eye since it wasn’t her money.
This was Xiao Yao’s solution to deal with Xiang Liu. The entire world was covered with the Tu Shan messenger network so if Xiao Yao had money then she could send it to Qing Shui Town. She had been sending him poisons every 3-4 months, the last time sent from Gao Xing. She wondered if Xiang Liu got it? He ought to, otherwise with his petty personality, no matter how busy he was he would find time to cause her trouble.
Xiao Yao walked out and saw Fang Feng Bei. She couldn’t resist and used her bug to sense him but still got no response.
Fang Feng Bei smiled as he walked over “Delivering something?”
Xiao Yao smiled at him and he asked “You still remember me, yes?”
Xiao Yao walked off “You should stay away from me, when I see you I want to poison you.”
Fang Feng Bei followed her “You find that friend of yours that distasteful?
She found Xiang Liu distasteful? Of course not, likely he’s the one who found her distasteful.
Xiao Yao asked “Why are you following me?” That meeting in the garden, he likely didn’t know who she was, but now he had to know.
“I’m bored. I can see you’re bored. Two people bored together is better than one.”
That night, the spectre of death radiating from the tip of his arrow, Xiao Yao still remembered it vividly. She sneered “What are you doing here in Xuan Yuan Castle? Not here to be bored?”
Fang Feng Bei chuckled “All the things I came to do in Xuan Yuan Castle can’t see the light of day and has to wait until night. I really am supremely bored during the day.”
Xiao Yao was speechless – this guy’s personality was diametrically opposite to his little sister, he was so blatant it was refreshing “I hear your entire family are crack archers?”
“Who is better between you and your little sister?”
“Better to what degree?”
“You want to see my archery skills?”
“Then follow me!”
Fang Feng Bei returned to his residence and called for his winged horse. He then left the castle with Xiao Yao and arrived at Dun Wu Mountain.
Fang Feng Bei asked “What do you want me to shoot?”
Xiao Yao narrowed her eyes and then pointed at the tree on the opposite cliff “That tree’s flower blooms a little yellow bud in the Summer. Shoot the flower bud.”
Fang Feng Bei took his bow, his arrow, put the arrow on the bow, pulled back, and released.
Xiao Yao laughed “Not clear if you hit it.”
Fang Feng Bei reached out his hand and the arrow flew back from the opposite cliff. He handed it to her and there was yellow on the tip, he clearly hit the yellow bud.
Xiao Yao was impressed “Amazing archery skills.”
“Want to learn?”
“This can be taught?”
“You’re learning archery form and not the power behind the shot. Anyone can teach you, but if I teach you it will be ideal.”
“Okay!” Xiao Yao couldn’t figure out what Fang Feng Bei wanted but just like he said, she was bored so went along.
Fang Feng Bei picked a nearby big tree “Use that at a target.” He handed the bow to Xiao Yao and she mimicked his form and pulled the bow back.
Fang Feng Bei said “Not bad, you have some form. Your body needs to be straight – don’t bend the neck, don’t stick your elbows out, don’t lean forward, don’t puff out your chest.” He corrected Xiao Yao’s form “Your power is weak so you should use four fingers to hold the bow. Your thumb will naturally face inward and your forefinger facing down. The bow to your nose….”
He handed an arrow to Xiao Yao and she let it fly, it flew out but fell a short distance away.
He picked another arrow and it was the same as before.
After shooting a few successive arrows, Xiao Yao’s arrow was stronger than before but nowhere close to the big tree. Xiao Yao sighed “Looks easy, hard to do.”
Fang Feng Bei walked in back of Xiao Yao and grabbed her hand, guiding it to follow his movements “Body straight, senses calm, focused and relaxed, pushing forward and following behind, bow cocked arrow flying!” With the word “flying” the arrow few out and solidly embedded in the tree.
“How does it feel?”
“Thinking of nothing, eyes not on the target, focused only on the arrow movement.”
“You have natural aptitude.”
Xiao Yao smiled wanly. It wasn’t that she had natural aptitude, it was that her body reacted the same way when Xiang Liu got close to her. She felt that he would bite down on her neck so her mind was blank. But if it was Xiang Liu, even if he was in cahoots with the Fang Feng family, there was no way the family archery skill would be passed to a Nine-headed demon.
Fang Feng Bei guided Xiao Yao to shoot another arrow “Maintain this feeling and continue.”
Xiao Yao released another arrow which still didn’t hit the tree but got close. She really got interested and immediately released another arrow which struck the tree. She was incredulous “I hit it?”
Fang Feng Bei smiled and Xiao Yao grabbed another arrow and mimicked the sensation but it fell midway just like her first arrow. Fang Feng Bei said “You are too overeager.”
Xiao Yao didn’t believe it and wanted to try again but he stopped her “This is enough for today.”
Xiao Yao didn’t understand “I want to practice more.”
“If you practice more, you’ll get worse. The mistaken feeling will be repeated until you remember it. Trust me, things are better when one knows when to stop early.”
Xiao Yao put down the bow “If you want to be a Master, your disciples will love you.”
Fang Feng Bei laughed “Everyone is different, my method only works on the smart.”
“Thanks for the compliment.”
Fang Feng Bei vaulted on his winged horse and the two rode the horse slowly down the mountain. Xiao Yao said “I notice your powers are far greater than Yi Yang, how come your archery skills are less than hers?”
Fang Feng Bei laughed “Many think archery requires vast arm strength but it’s more based on clever strength. A specifically designed arrow can pierce through thick mystical enchantments so even someone without any power can hit a target vastly more powerful. My spiritual powers are much greater than my little sister but my archery technique cannot match up to her.”
Xiao Yao stared at Fang Feng Bei and her heart started to swell. Her powers were weak and all she wanted was to survive so she long stopped attacking as a strategy. But if what Fang Feng Bei said was true, then within a certain distance she could attack as well. If she ran into another incident like the attempt on Zhuan Xu’s life, she could do more than shield him with her body.
Fang Feng Bei appeared not to notice that what he said had an impact on Xiao Yao and he asked with a smile “Want to learn archery from me?”
Fang Feng Bei said “If you help me while the time away, then I’ll teach you.”
Xiao Yao responded “Sure.”
Fang Feng Bei dropped Xiao Yao off at Zhuan Xu’s residence “See you tomorrow.” Xiao Yao watched him ride off on his winged horse like a carefree rich boy sauntering down the street.
Xiao Yao’s life suddenly become extraordinarily busy. She had to make poisons, she had to practice archery, and when Fang Feng Bei had time, she had to learn from him and go along with him to find entertainment.
After Xiao Yao hung out with Fang Feng Bei was when she truly learned what it meant to eat, drink, and be merry. She discovered Xuan Yuan Castle anew, so many places hidden in the small alleys that even her cousins didn’t know, Fang Feng Bei knew.
He was like an expert taking Xiao Yao along to eat, drink, and be merry.
The jewelry shops run by the dwarves with their little hands and exquisite craftsmanship was delightful. They turned a red ruby into a rose, carving a pair of lovers into a dew drop pendant. Xiao Yao was so enchanted she picked a few accessories for Ah Nian and Consort Jing An.
The giants with their huge bowls that was like a bucket for Xiao Yao to eat out of, initially she didn’t think she would finish it but after one bite she kept on eating until she scarfed it all down. Afterwards she moaned that she was going to burst but had no regrets if she died this way.
The cosmetics store owned by the flower demons which initially didn’t interest Xiao Yao. Their flower cream would leave a scent on for a month, all the various floral scented perfumes and the unique ways of mixing scents to create new scents that even Xiao Yao who was used to living as a man couldn’t help but be enticed and she ended up buying tens of different scents.
Fang Feng Bei wasn’t free every day and usually came by every 5-6 days for Xiao Yao to hang out with him. It so happened to give Xiao Yao enough time to practice her archery from what he taught her in their last meeting. Though one time he disappeared for three months before suddenly showing up. Xiao Yao didn’t ask where he went and he didn’t offer an explanation. Xiao Yao knew their relationship where he taught her archery was just temporary and could end with any little mishap.
But in the eyes of outsiders, Xiao Yao was getting very close to Fang Feng Bei. Because he was teaching her archery, there was an indelible closeness between her and Xiao Yao.
Fang Feng Bei was very casual so when he came looking for Xiao Yao, if she was up in Cao Yun Peak then he would go up Xuan Yuan Mountain and ask a guard to summon her. Xiao Yao felt no need to conceal anything so their coming and going together was soon spread all over Xuan Yuan Castle that the Gao Xing Eldest Princess and the Fang Feng family’s second son was very close.
Even Zhuan Xu teased her “I just got you back and want you around a few more years. Don’t get lured off by that Fang Feng family playboy.”
Xiao Yao stuck her tongue out at him “As long as he can shoot you with an arrow, I’ll never run away with him.”
Without her realizing it, a year had passed.
Xiao Yao was confused and didn’t know what Fang Feng Bei was thinking. She thought he taught her archery as an excuse to get close to her. She thought him taking her out to play was a technique to get into a woman’s heart. But he was very serious when he taught her and every time Xiao Yao was learning archery she really respected him as her teacher.
When they were out playing, it was like the two of them was just enjoying life. Two people who didn’t care about anything, who was willing to try everything, became partners venturing out into the dizzying world. Many things in life, it feels different doing it alone or with a companion. Dining, no matter how delicious, just doesn’t taste as good alone. Xiao Yao believed Fang Feng Bei also understood how she felt which is why he never hesitated and introduced her to everything he could think of and then took her to experience it.
Xiao Yao sometimes felt Fang Feng Bei was like a child who was lonely for too long. He had played with too many toys alone and it was no longer interesting. Now he had a companion, he couldn’t wait to take her to play, to experience what he tried. It appeared just casual but was in truth very sincere.
Gradually, Xiao Yao started sincerely eating, drinking, and being merry with him. As long as Fang Feng Bei wasn’t aiming a bow and arrow at Zhuan Xu, then he wasn’t her enemy.
This day, in the morning Fang Feng Bei taught her archery, in the afternoon they went to the dance hall to have lunch and nap, and later Fang Feng Bei took Xiao Yao to an underground gambling den run by the Li Jie Tribe. Legend had it the tribe’s ancestor was the two-headed dog demon, and maybe for that reason, all the men entering the gambling den had to wear a dog mask while the ladies could do as they wished. Xiao Yao saw that Fang Feng Bei wearing the mask looked like a dog head on a man’s body and guffawed loudly at the sight. She put on a mask as well and gestured her hands like claws and barked like a dog. Fang Feng Bei laughed “If you get a beat down by the Li Jie tribe and tossed out of here, don’t blame me.”
Walking into the underground gambling den, everywhere was the sight of a dog head on a man’s body. Because everyone didn’t have a face, they also behaved as if they didn’t care about their reputations. It was raunchy and racy everywhere, so sensual it was erotic. Xiao Yao and Fang Feng Bei walked through the crowds and remained nonplussed.
Fang Feng Bei took Xiao Yao to the dice table first and she spent five years in a casino before so she kept on winning as did Fang Feng Bei, though both knew when to stop and not upset the house.
They went to watch the slave fights and used their winnings to wager. The two slaves would fight until one died and there were people cheering all around them at the fight whereas neither Xiao Yao nor Fang Feng Bei seemed affected.
The losing side was a pile of bloody flesh while the winner was huddled in the corner with a pair of dead cold eyes. This time Xiao Yao lost while Fang Feng Bei won.
Xiao Yao scoffed “You got lucky.”
Fang Feng Bei said “Let’s bet again, whatever you pick.”
“Okay, let’s keep wagering on that slave.”
“You want to come back tomorrow to see him battle to the death again?”
“No. Didn’t you see his eyes? That was a pair of eyes that has lost all hope. Let’s bet on who can give him back hope in an instant.”
Fang Feng Bei chuckled “That’s interesting. Since you lost earlier, I’ll let you go first as an advantage.”
Xiao Yao walked over and the slave grabbed her hand and was about to crush it when he realized from years of battles that her hands had very low powers and couldn’t hurt anyone. Plus his animal beast instinct told him that Xiao Yao meant no harm. He hesitated and let her go.
The slave owner came over to shoo Xiao Yao away but Fang Feng Bei’s long legs blocked his path and he tossed the winnings from the slave fight to him. The owner picked up the money and moved aside.
Xiao Yao took off her dog mask and smiled at the slave before suddenly tightly embracing him and whispering in his ear “This world has something beautiful in it that is worth you remaining alive for.” She put on the mask again and walked back. The bloodied slave stared at her confused like he had no idea what just happened.
Fang Feng Bei was bowled over with his body shaking in laughter that he could barely contain.
Xiao Yao pouted “Your turn.”
Fang Feng Bei walked over and leaned down to say something to the slave. His eyes suddenly lit up and he seemed very agitated yet in disbelief. He stared at Fang Feng Bei who solemnly nodded his head before walking back. The slave seemed to have become another person and when his owner led him away, his footsteps were firm and alive.
Fang Feng Bei laughed “I won.”
Xiao Yao couldn’t believe it, even if Fang Feng Bei promised to buy the slave’s freedom, the slave was so jaded he couldn’t believe him, and that didn’t seem like what he said either.
She muttered “You cheated, you must know him. No wonder you bet on him to win.”
“I met him for the first time tonight.”
“What did you say to him?” Xiao Yao couldn’t figure it out.
The two of them arrived at the entrance to the gambling den and Fang Feng Bei took off his mask. When they stepped outside it was already dark out and Xiao Yao took a deep breath of the crisp air.
She said “I really want to know what you said to him.”
Fang Feng Bei laughed “If you hug me too, then I’ll tell you. Your beauty scheme was no use on him, but it’ll work on me.”
Xiao Yao stomped her foot “Forget it!”
She huffed off angrily and Fang Feng Bei followed behind her “Fine, I’ll tell you.”
“I don’t want to know anymore!”
“Don’t want to know!”
Fang Feng Bei grabbed her arm and tried to placate her “But I want to tell you, can you please hear it.”
Xiao Yao controlled the smile at the corner of her lips “How are you going to beg me to listen?”
“I hug you once? I’m willing to use my handsome man wiles on you.”
Xiao Yao was angry and amused and shoved him “Fang Feng Bei, you’re toying with me!”
Fang Feng Bei laughed and held onto her arm “I told him that I was once a slave in the death battle matches, yet I survived.”
Xiao Yao stood still and stared in anger “You lied to him!”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “Hope is but a lie.”
Xiao Yao’s anger dissipated but she shook her head “He is locked in a cage but he’s a very smart beast. He wouldn’t have believed you that easily. What else did you do?”
“I used the code word that only the slaves in the death match battle arenas would know.”
Xiao Yao was shocked “Even the slave owners don’t know the code. How do you?”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “Maybe I really was once a slave in the death match battles.”
Xiao Yao stared at him for some time and murmured “Who are you?”
“Who do you want me to be?”
Xiao Yao put one hand on her heart and slowly extended the other hand and placed it on Fang Feng Bei’s heart. His heart was beating at the exact same rhythm as her heart.
Xiao Yao was confused. She once thought he was Xiang Liu, who had nine-heads and eighty-one forms. So perhaps one of his forms was Fang Feng Bei. But Fang Feng Bei was so different than Xiang Liu.
He took her to buy makeup and skin creams, laying lazily on the pallet watching her try things on and make her picks. Once a woman got into it, the time would fly and Xiao Yao forgot how long she stayed in that store trying on the various scents. She smelled so much for so long her nose wasn’t even working by the end, and when she couldn’t decide, she would ask him to sniff and give her an opinion. He patiently sniffed each one and provided his opinion.
When they ate together, Xiao Yao loved eating the filling of a crispy biscuit and he would always peel off the outside of his and put the filling on her plate. When they were eating barbecue, her favorite was the neck area where there was a piece that was juicy with thin skin and he would always grill that piece until it was nicely crisped before handing it to her.
When they walked along a narrow mountain path, he would always have her walk ahead of him because when the person in front passed tree branches or bushes the person in back would often be hit by the swinging branches.
How could Xiang Liu tenderly talk with her, carefully take care of her, patiently spend time with her? Only Fang Feng Bei that playboy would know a woman’s heart so well.
But as time went on, even if she still had that niggling feeling, she had accepted Fang Feng Bei was just Fang Feng Bei. But right now….she felt again that he was Xiang Liu. No reason, impossible to explain, but she just felt that he was.
She said “Our hearts are beating as one.” She raised her head to look at Fang Feng Bei and waited for him to give her an explanation.
Fang Feng Bei’s hand closed around her hand and he smiled “Yes, it sure seems like it’s really beating together.”
This bastard! Xiao Yao was exasperated but could do nothing to him. She could only grit her teeth and stare at him as he smiled and stared back at her.
The lamp post in the waning dusk cast its yellow light on them standing there staring at each other.
A carriage stopped beside them and the curtain was raised as Fang Feng Yi Yang incredulously called out “Second brother?”
Fang Feng Bei was very nonchalant and said with a smile “Little sister, no time no see.”
Xiao Yao’s body stiffened because she sensed someone else was looking at her.
Xiao Yao didn’t know what to feel. She had been learning archery from Fang Feng Bei for 16 months and with the Tu Shan clan’s information network and her and Fang Feng Bei’s identities, Jing must have heard about it a long time ago. Or perhaps in the beginning before she really understood Fang Feng Bei’s devil may care attitude, she never believed he would really teach her archery so she wasn’t even learning in earnest. She didn’t reject Fang Feng Bei getting close because she wanted the news that she was hanging out with him to spread across all the powerful families and reach Jing. Xiao Yao wanted Jing to know but she didn’t know why she did that. She just wanted to do it so she did it.
Later Xiao Yao realized she was mistaken about Fang Feng Bei and he really was teaching her archery. She began to learn in earnest and gradually she felt her initial purpose wasn’t important, but she still waited for how Jing would respond. But after 16 months she had totally given up waiting and felt she was so lame. Thank goodness Fang Feng Bei turned out to exceed her initial expectations otherwise it wouldn’t just be lame, it would have been pathetic.
But just as she had forgotten, he suddenly appeared and even brought along his fiancee!
Fang Feng Yi Yang got off the carriage as did Tu Shan Jing. Fang Feng Bei smiled “You must be the Young Master of Qing Qiu. I’ve heard the great reputation of my future brother-in-law. Nice to meet you finally.”
Fang Feng Yi Yang said to Jing “This is my second brother.”
Jing said nothing for a moment, and as someone who once saw Xiang Liu’s “real face” like Xiao Yao, his reaction was likely the same as Xiao Yao when she first saw Fang Feng Bei. A moment later he bowed politely “Greetings second brother.”
Fang Feng Bei smiled and turned “Let me introduce you to….”
Fang Feng Yi Yang rudely cut him off “Second brother, no need to introduce your friend to us.” Yi Yang only saw Xiao Yao once at the ceremony dressed in formal attire, but today Xiao Yao was out dressed in casual Xuan Yuan attire and she was currently standing to the side with her head lowered. Yi Yang probably assumed that a girl with her second brother out late at night and all alone must not be a decent girl so she didn’t want to meet her. She never recognized Xiao Yao.
Fang Feng Bei smiled and really made no move to introduce Xiao Yao.
Yi Yang asked “Where is second brother staying? Tu Shan clan has a residence here and you can stay with us.”
Fang Feng Bei said “No need.”
The normally silent Jing suddenly spoke “Yi Yang really misses you, the residence is very big and comfortable, second brother please come.”
Yi Yang glanced in shock at Jing, feeling happy that he treated her family so well and giving her face.
Bei laughed “Your hospitality is hard to turn down but no need for tonight. I have to take my friend home but I’ll move in tomorrow.”
Jing said “Where is second brother going? The carriage is very spacious and we can take you.”
Bei turned him down “No need to bother, we were in a gambling den for hours and need to move around now.”
“Let’s go!” Bei waved at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao followed him without hesitation, and from the moment Jing arrived until she left, she never once looked at him.
Jing stared at her disappearing form.
Yi Yang sighed at her second brother leaving “Rumor has it he got really close with the Gao Xing Princess this past year and I thought he finally met a girl who could change him and make him give his real feelings, but he’s still the same.”
Jing said nothing and silently got back in the carriage and closed his eyes. All he could see was the way Xiao Yao and Bei were standing there looking at each other under the lamp light, and the indescribable feeling that was transpiring between them.
Xiao Yao returned to Zhuan Xu’s residence and hurriedly went to find him “Zhuan Xu, Zhuan Xu.” She pushed open the door and saw Ah Nian and Hai Tang.
Xiao Yao was stunned and looked at Zhuan Xu who smiled “Ah Nian came to Xuan Yuan Castle for a visit.”
Xiao Yao asked “She snuck out?” How could the Gao Xing Princess show up here and no one reported to the Yellow Emperor.
Zhuan Xu smiled wearily “I’m sure Master knows.”
Xiao Yao knew her dad knew already and allowed it otherwise Hai Tang would never have the guts to help Ah Nian sneak out. Her daddy was really weird that way, he allowed his daughters to do whatever they wanted outside. Take her and Fang Feng Bei, it wasn’t a big deal here in Xuan Yuan and her grandfather said nothing, but her dad also said nothing and simply asked casually about Fang Feng Bei in one sentence in one letter.
Ah Nian asked “Gege, are you unhappy I came?”
Zhuan Xu gently said “Of course not, you came to see me and Xiao Yao, I’m very happy.”
Ah Nian sneered at Xiao Yao “I’m just here to see Gege.”
Zhuan Xu asked Xiao Yao “What were you rushing in here to talk to me about?”
“I ran into Tu Shan Jing and Fang Feng Yi Yang on the street.”
“Oh, they arrived this afternoon, and in a few days, Feng Long and Xing Yue will be here as well.”
“What happened that brings them all here?”
Zhuan Xu explained “Xiao Yao, this is Xuan Yuan Castle! Half the proclamations and decrees that affect the vast wilderness originate from here. No matter Chi Sui, Tu Shan, or Sheng Nong, Fang Feng, their families futures are tightly linked to the decisions and information coming out of this castle. Every family and clan sends their kids here every few years to stay for a period of time. The closer friends will make plans to come at the same time.”
Xiao Yao was silent and seemed disappointed so Zhuan Xu asked “What is it?”
Xiao Yao shook her head “I’m going to wash up and sleep.”
Zhuan Xu led Ah Nian out “I’ll take you to your room and you can stay here. Since you snuck here, if people ask just say you are Xiao Yao’s friend. But I need to tell my grandfather and if he asks to see you then I’ll take you to see him.”
Ah Nian obediently nodded but asked angrily “Why can’t I be your friend? Why do I have to be Xiao Yao’s friend?”
“Because Gege’s powers are limited right now and its dangerous to be my friend. It’s safer to be your older sister’s friend.”
Ah Nian usually was clueless about the little things but surprisingly understanding about the big picture. She immediately gleaned a lot from what Zhuan Xu said “Gege, don’t worry, I know this place is not Gao Xing. I won’t make trouble for you.”
Xiao Yao suddenly blurst out laughing at that and Ah Nian glared “You don’t believe me?”
Xiao Yao arrived at her room and stepped inside “I. Wait. With. Bated. Breath.” before closing the door and avoiding Ah Nian’s eruption.
Zhuan Xu comforted Ah Nian “I know Ah Nian is the most understanding, don’t let your sister get to you.” Ah Nian smiled at that and followed Zhuan Xu to her own room.
The next day Xiao Yao left a note for Zhuan Xu and went back to Cao Yun Peak. Knowing Jing’s friendship with Zhuan Xu, he would undoubtedly come see him but Xiao Yao didn’t want to wait for him anymore. With time passing and the feeling of waiting getting worse, she chose not to wait anymore. This time whether he came, when he came, none of that involved her anymore.
Xiao Yao practiced her archery in the mulberry forest for a long time before putting it away.
“You’re in a bad mood today.” The Yellow Emperor’s voice boomed.
He was holding a walking stick and standing in the mulberry forest. Xiao Yao walked over and helped him sit down on the pallet and she also sat down before picking up a plate of iced mulberries and munching on it. Probably in the entire vast wilderness, she was the only person who dared to sit alongside the Yellow Emperor.
The Yellow Emperor said “Let me see your hands.”
Xiao Yao lifted up her hands and the Yellow Emperor touched the thick callouses that had formed where she pulled the bow back. “When little ladies are practicing archery, they don’t want to grow ugly callouses so will wear gloves. Why don’t you have one made.”
Xiao Yao laughed “Their purpose is different than mine. They want to go hunting in Autumn, I want to kill people. Will my enemy wait until I put on my gloves first?”
The Yellow Emperor released her hand “Fang Feng Bei won’t teach you their family’s entire archery skills. I’ll find you another master. You have weak powers so your bow and arrow will need to be custom made. But there is no rush on that, when you get better I’ll have a set commissioned for you.”
Xiao Yao casually said “Gao Xing has no shortage of weapons forgers. I’ll have my dad make me a set.”
The Yellow Emperor stared at her “How does your dad treat you?”
Xiao Yao’s eyes were like the slits of a crescent moon as she grinned “No better dad than him in the world.”
The Yellow Emperor gazed at the mulberry forest – with Shao Hao’s intelligence, he couldn’t not have known that Xiao Yao was….. Did he have an ulterior motive then? The Yellow Emperor slowly asked “He is the leader of a kingdom, don’t see him as just your dad. If you are born into an imperial family, don’t expect relationships and feelings to be simple. You have to rely on yourself for everything.”
Xiao Yao sighed “Not every ruler is as ambitious as you.”
The Yellow Emperor ignored her barb and suddenly said “Pick a good husband! Before I die I can guarantee that you can marry any man you want.” He wanted to make sure Xiao Yao was happy.
The Yellow Emperor’s conversation jumped topics so abruptly Xiao Yao was stunned and suddenly she felt this tenderness in her heart. No matter how much she blamed him, he was still her grandfather.
Xiao Yao controlled her conflicted emotions and asked with a goofy smile “Anyone I want? Even someone who is already engaged? Even someone who is your enemy?”
The Yellow Emperor stared at Xiao Yao “What kind of man do you want?” The Yellow Emperor did not come from a noble or imperial birth right or received such an education, he was born in an ordinary family so when conversing with him, he was much more blunt that the Grand Emperor.
This bold topic would have made any young girl blush but Xiao Yao. She really thought about it and said “Before I came of age I was already pretending to be a man. When young ladies are just noticing guys I was trying to just survive. I was alone for so long that really I just want someone to keep me company. Not someone I want to marry – I want someone I can live with, share happiness and sorrow with, fight and make up, I just don’t want to talk to myself anymore. But I’m scared because think about it, my own grandfather, mom, dad, they all abandoned me before. How can I trust someone won’t abandon me. I took in lonely elders and orphans because I know they need me so they won’t abandon me.”
Xiao Yao chuckled “People think I am kind but really I’m just weak. When I’m with those who are weaker than me, I feel like I am in control and am needed so I won’t be abandoned. That is when I feel safe.”
The Yellow Emperor rested on the pallet and stared at Xiao Yao.
She continued “When I became a girl again, I think marrying is so far away and never thought about it. But I know I’m scared of a man like you. In your heart, there will always be choices that are more important than the woman you love.”
The Yellow Emperor was expressionless and he said “Men like me are not suited to be husbands.”
Xiao Yao slowly said “I am too afraid of having and losing, so I would rather not have at all. Unless there is a man who, no matter faced with any choice, will always pick me first, who will never abandon me no matter what reason, then I will be willing to spend the rest of my life with him.”
The Yellow Emperor said “That’s very hard.”
Xiao Yao smiled “I know it’s hard which is why I don’t think about any man. I’m too scared of falling in and not being able to save myself…..” Xiao Yao sighed “Even if I have a bit of stirring, I do my best to rein it in.”
The Yellow Emperor said “The question you just asked me, there is actually an answer and you know what it is. If he picked another woman, that means you are not his first choice. If he chose to be the enemy of Zhuan Xu or myself, then it means you are not most important to him and he can give you up.”
Xiao Yao’s heart was jumbled and she sat with her arms around her knees and stared at the mulberry forest.
The Yellow Emperor said “Actually you think too much. People need to pretend to be clueless sometimes. If you pick the right person, treat him well and it’s not hard to grow old together.”
Xiao Yao mulled over what he said and after a few minutes smiled ruefully “I understand what grandfather is trying to say but I’m already this way. If I can’t find the kind of man I want, then I rather not marry and take in some orphans and live my life.”
The Yellow Emperor had no further response and silently stared at the mulberry forest.
Xiao Yao stayed at Cao Yun Peak for five days, practicing her archery in the morning, flipping through medical texts and making poisons in the afternoon, and when the Yellow Emperor had time, she would dine and chat with him.
On the sixth morning, Zhuan Xu brought Ah Nian to pay her respects to the Yellow Emperor.
Ah Nian was very courteous and respectful, and the Yellow Emperor was taken aback at seeing how much Ah Nian looked like his own daughter than Xiao Yao did. Because of this, he was warmer to her.
Ah Nian immediately sensed it and started her usual pouting and wheedling “I want a grandfather, too! Your majesty, can I call you grandfather like Zhuan Xu gege goes?”
The Yellow Emperor laughed “If your father doesn’t mind, then go ahead.”
Ah Nian immediately said in the sweetest voice “Grandfather.”
The Yellow Emperor was so happy he had a servant bring one of Lei Zhu’s bracelets to bestow on her. Ah Nian heard it was a bracelet that formerly belonged to Her highness Lei Zhu and was beaming with happiness and immediately put it on.
Xiao Yao stared with her mouth open and felt like Ah Nian was the granddaughter who was actually related to the Yellow Emperor.
Zhuan Xu winked at Xiao Yao to indicate that she was witnessing Ah Nian’s power now.
Xiao Yao gave a thumbs up, she used to think Ah Nian was clueless with the details but smart with the bigger picture. She wasn’t stupid but was hot tempered and not very personable. But now she realized it wasn’t that Ah Nian didn’t know how to be personable, she just didn’t care to. Towards people who had no impact on her, why would she waste time to be nice to them. Ah Nian might be bratty but she also knew where the boundary was with Zhuan Xu and the Grand Emperor and she never once crossed it.
A servant came to announce “Fang Feng Bei is at the bottom of the mountain asking to meet with the Princess.”
Xiao Yao spoke solemnly like she was off to do big things “I’m off to play, if I come back late don’t wait for me for dinner.”
The Yellow Emperor was chatting with Ah Nian and waved “Go on.”
Xiao Yao curtsied and left with Zhuan Xu following her.
Xiao Yao went to grab a winged horse but didn’t bring her bow and arrow. Other than Fang Feng Bei, only the Yellow Emperor and Zhuan Xu knew she was learning archery and she didn’t want anyone else to know. She purposely had two sets made, one kept with her and one kept with Fang Feng Bei. If others noticed, it would appear to belong to him.
Zhuan Xu grabbed the reins “Are you purposely avoiding Jing.”
“He’s been by every day to see me these past few days. He doesn’t have that much free time to want to see me every day.”
Xiao Yao said “Fang Feng Bei is waiting for me, I need to go.”
Zhuan Xu paused and said “Fang Feng Bei is concubine born and he has no real power in the Fang Feng family. You can play with him but…..don’t end things with Jing yet. I need him right now.” Zhuan Xu lowered his head and his hand gripping the reins were blue with strength he was gripping it. Zhuan Xu endured countless insults and humiliations but in this moment he felt utterly powerless and humiliated.
Xiao Yao grabbed his hand “Gege, don’t feel bad. This isn’t a big deal. I’ll go see Jing and it’s not hard and I’m not doing it for you. I actually….I actually have been mad at him.”
Zhuan Xu kept his head lowered and said in mockery “I sure am a good older brother. You can’t even be mad when you want to be, and I need you to quickly go and lower your head to a man.” He released the reins “Go!” before striding back into court.
Xiao Yao rode the winged horse down the mountain and saw Fang Feng Bei waiting for her. She waved her hand and he kicked his horse and caught up to her, the two of them riding in unison towards Dun Wu Mountain.
When they arrived, Xiao Yao grabbed the bow and pulled and arrow and let one rip hard as the arrow embedded into the big tree.
Fang Feng Bei laughed “You’re pissed today!”
Xiao Yao said nothing and grabbed another arrow and slowly turned around and pointed it on Fang Feng Bei’s chest “Who are you?”
Fang Feng Bei said “I live in the home of my future brother-in-law, I see my sister every day. Who do you think I can be other than Fang Feng Bei?”
Seeing him now, he didn’t look like Xiang Liu again so Xiao Yao glared “If later on I find out you lied to me, I’ll shoot this arrow right into your heart.”
Fang Feng Bei laughed “Who do you really want me to be? The friend you want to poison to death?”
Xiao Yao released her arrow and it whizzed past Fang Feng Bei and landed in the tree behind him. He clapped “I’m a great teacher!”
Xiao Yao smiled.
Fang Feng Bei said “I can tell you’re in a bad mood today, let’s stop for now!”
Xiao Yao pulled another arrow “If I don’t practice if I’m in a bad mood, or don’t practice when I’m in a good mood, then life is filled with too many excuses to slack off. If I start then I’ll continue so why bother.”
Fang Feng Bei sighed and said nothing else. He stared at Xiao Yao shooting and would occasionally give her pointers.
They practiced until mid-afternoon before Xiao Yao put her bow away.
The two of them did what they always did and went back to Xuan Yuan Castle to have lunch at a dance hall and take a nap.
The two of them rode alongside each other down the streets of Xuan Yuan, and despite Xiao Yao wearing a veiled hat, she was riding a winged horse. Plus Fang Feng Bei was beside her and the smart folks easily guessed she was the Princess. People got excited and pointed at her and crowds started gathering.
Xiao Yao was distracted this morning and grabbed the wrong winged horse. This one was encrusted with the gold emblem of the royal family and was likely a horse that pulled the Yellow Emperor’s carriage.
At this time, they were the only people moving on the street which felt totally strange but Xiao Yao had no choice but to put her her best haughty Princess impersonation as she and Fang Feng Bei passed.
Fang Feng Bei laughed “I may be shameless but taking you to a dance hall in broad daylight in public makes even me feel sheepish.”
Xiao Yao laughed “That means you’re not shameless enough and need to keep working on it.” Actually she didn’t have the guts either, worried that it’ll spread back to Gao Xing and her dad would hear of it.
Xiao Yao said “Let’s go to Zhuan Xu’s place. He should be in Cao Yun Court until after dinner.”
After they entered the residence, Xiao Yao jumped off her winged horse and sighed “My version of the wild Princess is so different than Ah Nian. With the entire street staring at me, my first instinct is to wonder what I did wrong. Is this a side effect of doing too many bad things in my past?”
Fang Feng Bei asked half seriously half in jest “Why don’t you not be a Princess anymore and go wander the world with me?”
Xiao Yao giggled “Sure! If you can let everything go first.”
Fang Feng Bei chuckled while Xiao Yao stared at him. She felt like she called him on his bullshit. When she was wandering the world being a con artist, he was likely home tickling his maids!
The center court was where Zhuan Xu handled his business affairs so Xiao Yao led him to the side court where a pallet and meal was set up on the front part of the room while the back half was blocked with a long veil curtain and a pallet was inside for napping.
The maids quickly brought out the food and after dining, Fang Feng Bei rested against the window staring out at the courtyard view while drinking wine. Xiao Yao drowsily said “Zhuan Xu probably didn’t train any maids to dance so if you want you need to ask the maids yourself.”
Xiao Yao walked into the back part of the room and pulled down the veil curtain and she was asleep before her head hit the pillow. They were like this when they went to the dance halls as well, after dining Fang Feng Bei would watch the dancers outside while Xiao Yao took a nap on the pallet behind him. When she woke up, they would discuss where to go next.
Xiao Yao was aware that Fang Feng Bei said something but she waved him off to not bother her. She hadn’t slept enough and her body wasn’t like the rest of the Gods. After a morning of archery practice, if she didn’t nap she wouldn’t be able to do anything in the afternoon.
She slept a bit more and then heard Fang Feng Bei talking to someone. She thought Zhuan Xu came home and didn’t think much about it, turning her head and laying there still.
“I heard Xiao Yao saying the Prince will be back after dinner. If you have something urgent, you should send word to Xuan Yuan Mountain.”
“I already sent someone to Xuan Yuan Mountain.”
Xiao Yao shot up fully awake. That gentle raspy voice, other than Jing who else could it be?
It was so weird. Anytime she heard him talking to someone else, she always felt it was not the same Jing she knew. When he was saying something false to others, he remained calm and smooth, yet when he talked with her it always felt like he was slightly tongue-tied and awkward.
“You’re close with the Prince?” Fang Feng Bei was checking.
“The Prince gets along with everyone and is close with a lot of people.” Jing’s response was seamless.
Xiao Yao stood up and the two men stopped talking. She went to the mirror to tidy herself first.
Fang Feng Bei said “Xiao Yao, the maid came earlier to announce that Tu Shan Jing is seeking an audience with the Prince. I saw you were still sleeping so made a call to have the maid bring him inside.”
Xiao Yao lifted the curtain and walked out with a smile “Thanks for making the right call otherwise I would have been a poor host for Gege’s friend.”
Xiao Yao acted like she heard nothing from earlier and politely said to Jing “Gege is in Cao Yun Peak and I’ll have someone summon him back. If Young Master is not busy, then wait here. If you’re busy, then you can go back first and I’ll have Gege go find you.” She actually called a maid in and told her to summon Zhuan Xu back from Xuan Yuan Mountain.
Xiao Yao curtsied to Jing “Bei and I have other matters, we’ll be leaving now.”
Xiao Yao and Fang Feng Bei walked out of the room and she asked “Where to next?”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “Wherever you want to do, we can go.”
Xiao Yao felt a pair of eyes on her back, it was heavy, so heavy she felt she couldn’t move. But she decided on it so she forced her footsteps to be light as she laughed.
When they got to the front door, she suddenly remembered what Zhuan Xu asked her earlier and stopped. She didn’t know why but she just wanted to be mad at Jing.
Fang Feng Bei asked “What is it?”
Xiao Yao said “I suddenly remembered that Gege asked me to do something. I won’t accompany you today and let’s make it up another time, okay?”
Fang Feng Bei stared at her and that inexplicable familiar sensation rose up again and Xiao Yao’s body tensed. She felt like at any moment Fang Feng Bei would suddenly fly forward and bite down on her neck.
Suddenly Fang Feng Bei laughed and said with a casual “Sure!”
He left and Xiao Yao touched her neck and felt like she avoided that one.
Inside the court, it was eerily silent with no movement. Jing sat on the pallet without moving and it was unclear what he was thinking.
Xiao Yao said to herself: he’s Tu Shan Jing, not the broken and battered Ye Shi Qi that no one wants.
Xiao Yao smiled as she walked over and sat down facing Tu Shan Jing “Do you want some tea? I’ll have the maids make some for you.”
Jing’s voice was low “No.”
Xiao Yao was very eager “Then you want some wine? I’ll have the maids warm up some wine? Xuan Yuan Castle isn’t as warm as Qing Qiu, and now it’s late Autumn so everyone likes warmed wine.”
Xiao Yao laughed “Then what do you want?”
“You are here, that is enough.”
There was the hint of a smile in Jing’s eyes mixed with sadness. But it really did appear that no matter what Xiao Yao did or said, as long as she was there then he was content.
Xiao Yao suddenly felt really pointless, like pushing with all her might at a cloud.
Jing handed a box to Xiao Yao and she opened it to find inside was a necklace with a purple gem hanging on a pendant. It was crystal clear and glittering.
Xiao Yao was in disbelief “A fish amethyst?”
“I wanted to find you a red one a fish ruby but it really is hard to find and needs to be by chance. Only a fish amethyst was found and initially I wanted to engrave it but then thought you probably want to put it in your mouth so you can swim longer in the water. This shape is round so it’s comfortable to hold in your mouth. If you want a design I’ll have it carved for you.”
Xiao Yao asked “This was hard to find, right?”
“Not difficult? Even the Tu Shan clan with wealth to rival a kingdom could only find a purple one. In the future when you give something to a girl, be more sincere about it.”
Jing said nothing.
Xiao Yao played with it “This is already been processed?”
“So if I put it in my mouth I can swim underwater?”
“Yes, I tested it already.”
Xiao Yao was almost ready to put the gem in her mouth but when she head this she quickly put her hand down and felt the gem was hot in her hands.
Jing was worried Xiao Yao loved to play so much she got in trouble “The longest time I swam was for one day two nights. But I have powers so just to be safe don’t do it for longer than ten hours.”
Xiao Yao murmured a yes. Jing liked quiet over activity but to test the gem he swam for one day and two nights in the water.
Xiao Yao suddenly flopped on the pallet and buried her head in her arms.
Jing was shocked and his voice quivered “Xiao Yao, Xiao Yao, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, I just hate you a little.” Every time when she steeled her heart, he always had a way of softening it. Was it because she saved him and took him home that she just couldn’t be heartless with him?
“I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t appear!” Jing didn’t know what Xiao Yao was thinking, all he knew was that Xiao Yao was very unhappy but earlier she was very happy with Fang Feng Bei.
Xiao Yao was so angry she threw the gem at him “You are such a big idiot! I don’t know why everyone else thinks you’re so smart.”
Jing didn’t dare duck so just sat there.
Xiao Yao was worried she broke the gem and asked “The gem?”
Jing helped her look for it and handed it to her “It doesn’t break that easily.”
Xiao Yao glared at him and played with the gem and groused “You came to Xuan Yuan Castle, why bring along….. Do you still want to end the engagement? If you don’t, then tell me earlier so I am not holding onto my promise with you!”
Jing hurried said “I want to end it! I already told my grandmother I don’t want to marry Fang Feng Yi Yang!”
Xiao Yao lowered her head and said nothing.
Jing continued “All these years, Yi Yang spent by my grandmother and is very close with her. She didn’t agree to let me end it but agreed to postpone the wedding. This time Yi Yang wanted to come to Xuan Yuan Castle and I didn’t want to take her but grandmother said the clan owed her for me to treat her like a little sister.”
Xiao Yao played with the gem and thought about it.
Jing said “Xiao Yao, my grandmother spoils me, I will be able to convince her.”
Xiao Yao said “I’ll accept this fish amethyst!” She put the necklace around her neck and then tucked the pendant into her robe.
Jing noticed and his heart skipped a beat and he lowered his head.
Xiao Yao said “I’m learning archery from Fang Feng Bei who offered to teach me which is why we’ve been hanging out.”
Jing’s heart soared and he said with a smile “No need to explain, and I have no right to ask you to explain. Just now, you coming back, that is enough.”
But she didn’t come back just now for Jing, she came back because of Zhuan Xu! Xiao Yao felt this pressure in her heart, was her relationship with Jing also subject to being used? Xiao Yao said “Do you remember promising me not to hurt Xuan?”
“I don’t know what my Gege wants to do, but if it doesn’t harm Tu Shan clan, can you help him a little?”
Jing warmly said “If it’s this request, you need not even ask. I actually came with Feng Long this time to discuss something with Zhuan Xu.”
“If you didn’t have something to discuss, then you wouldn’t have come?” Xiao Yao bit her lip and furrowed her brow.
Jing heart skipped a beat and he explained “Feng Long asked me to wait for him but I couldn’t wait any longer and came first….”
“This is called coming first? I’ve been in Xuan Yuan Castle for twenty months now.”
Jing tried to think through what Xiao Yao said and he felt she meant he came too late. But he couldn’t quite believe she would mean that, so he had to think through each word and really wished she would say it again so he could hear her tone of voice.
Xiao Yao was silent and then sighed, standing up to walk away.
Jing grabbed her and stammered “Xiao Yao, you…you…you want to see me?”
Xiao Yao stared at him and he said with uncertainty “I know I’m rather dense at some stuff, if I made a wrong assumption, don’t be angry.”
Xiao Yao felt like she was looking at Shi Qi again and her heart softened “Do you want to see me?”
Jing nodded very solemnly. Because he missed her to the core, he thought of an idea and convinced Feng Long and then dragged Feng Long and Xing Yue thousands of miles to come to Xuan Yuan Castle to convince Zhuan Xu.
Xiao Yao was angry “Why didn’t you come?”
“Some things I needed to do.”
Xiao Yao sighed “How can you be so certain I won’t let another man into my heart?”
Jing shook his head, he was so uncertain.
Xiao Yao was so exasperated “You….are so stupid!”
Jing was taken aback, compared to Fang Feng Bei’s dashing charm, he really was too dull and staid.
Zhuan Xu and Ah Nian walked in and greeted them. Zhuan Xu smiled “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
Jing smiled “No worries, I didn’t tell you beforehand.” He glanced at Ah Nian and Zhuan Xu understood and said to Ah Nian “After a day with grandfather, you must be tired. Go wash up.”
Ah Nian knew they had things to discuss but they didn’t seem to want Xiao Yao to leave as well. She was feeling miffed but didn’t show it and just sweetly said “Okay.”
Seeing Ah Nian leaving, Jing said to Zhuan Xu “In a bit Feng Long and Xing Yue will arrive and they will sneak to come see you. After tonight, they won’t ever meet you privately again.”
Zhuan Xu heard this and summoned his loyal retainer and gave a few orders. He didn’t ask Jing what it was and just had the maids bring some food and wine “Let’s dine and wait for them.” He turned to Xiao Yao “You can join as well.”
Xiao Yao sat down and was bored with their chatter so started drinking. Zhuan Xu laughed and patted her on the head “If you get drunk, Feng Long and Xing Yue will think you’re an alcoholic and if word gets out you’ll never hope to get married.:
Xiao Yao groused “Who said I wanted to drink all alone. Don’t you know how to play? Play me a tune!”
Zhuan Xu said “In front of Jing, I can’t say I can play. Ask him to play.”
Jing said “I haven’t touched a zither in over ten years.”
Zhuan Xu was shocked and then apologized. He sat down at the zither and started to play, and it was a song Xiao Yao heard before. She sighed.
Suddenly Jing said “Feng Long and Xing Yue are here, Xiao Yao go inside.”
Xiao Yao quickly went inside.
The tune finished and Feng Long and Xing Yue walked in “To wait until you finished, we stood outside for a bit.”
Xing Yue stared at Zhuan Xu and her face was red.
Zhuan Xu welcomed them but Feng Long said “Just water, we’re going to greet the elders later and best not smell like alcohol.”
Feng Long said “I had the servants slow the cloud carriage down and I rode my winged ride here first, I bought us only a little bit of time so let’s cut to the chase.”
Zhuan Xu said “Between us, say whatever you want.”
Feng Long asked Zhuan Xu “You came back to Xuan Yuan to fight for the crown, but your uncles have thousands of years of ruling experience over you. What do you have to compete with them?”
Zhuan Xu said “I do have that desire, but right now I’m barely able to stay alive here. If you have another idea, please share.”
“Since Xuan Yuan Castle belongs to your uncles and cousins tight control, why don’t you give it up?”
“Give up Xuan Yuan Castle?” Zhuan Xu’s face changed.
Feng Long stood up and waved his hand and a water based map of the entire vast wilderness appeared “Look at the location of Xuan Yuan Castle. Long ago, when the Yellow Emperor and Empress Lei Zhu founded the Xuan Yuan Kingdom and was picking its capital, they selected this place because it can control the Northwest. The Castle is ringing on all four sides by mountains and hard to get in and out which makes it hard to conquer. Back then the Sheng Nong Kingdom couldn’t ever vanquish Xuan Yuan. But now thousands have years have passed and Xuan Yuan is no longer a little kingdom in the Northwest. It’s now got the Northeast, the due South, the far North, and the entire Middle Plains. All such great lands belong to Xuan Yuan!”
Feng Long pointed to the entire Xuan Yuan map and where Xuan Yuan Castle was located in the remote Northwest didn’t appear worthy of being the capital of such a vast kingdom, and it’s location would become hard for it to exercise influence throughout all its controlled territories.
Feng Long said “Zhuan Xu, do you see clearly? THIS is the entire world that you will rule over one day.”
Zhuan Xu’s hand was shaking “I see it clearly!”
Feng Long was shaking with excitement “Give up Xuan Yuan Castle and come to the Middle Plains! The Middle Plains is the center of the vast wilderness. Seated in the Middle Plains is where one can control the entire vast wilderness. And if one day you want to lead an army South….” Feng Long pointed at the Gao Xing Kingdom and grabbed it “It would be a piece of cake.”
Zhuan Xu stood up and stared at the entire map. His hand reached out and touched Sheng Nong Mountain. There! The mountain that was but one thousand miles from here, with its twenty-eight peaks, only Sheng Nong Mountain could match up as a capital to Xuan Yuan Kingdom.
Xing Yue gently said “Picking Sheng Nong Mountain, it’s not that we Sheng Nong tribe want to do something, in truth the elders don’t know yet….”
Zhuan Xu’s face was focused and he waved Xing Yue off, indicating she needn’t say more.
Feng Long looked at Zhuan Xu with admiration and laughed “Women are women! So focused on the little things. no clue what great ambition the men have. Who cares about the Sheng Nong tribe or the Xuan Yuan tribe? That shit is in the past, the future is even greater!”
Zhuan Xu started laughing and the two toasted with the water in their cups.
Xing Yue was upset to have her brother belittle her, but she saw Zhuan Xu so different than his usual self, with such manly powerful aura that made her so enamored of him. Her normally haughty young girl’s heart was lost forever.
Feng Long said “Only the four of us know this. How you are going to convince the Yellow Emperor to send you to the Middle Plains, that is up to you. We’ll wait for you in the Middle Plains.”
Feng Long waved at the water map with his eyes bright “I want to see a truly unified world during my lifetime, and building an empire that lives on through the ages!”
Zhuan Xu bowed to Feng Long “Hearing your advice was like waking from a sleep, I will never forget this!”
Feng Long glanced at Jing before saying “I’m not going to take the credit for it! Suggesting you go to the Middle Plains and give up Xuan Yuan Castle, if you win then you win it all, if you lose then you lose it all. There is no backup plan. You are daring enough to go for it and I’m impressed!”
Zhuan Xu laughed “My goal was never just one imperial capital. Why not give up?”
Xing Yue was confused “I thought this would be a wasted trip. Gege and I didn’t give you any promises but you decided to give up here and come to the Middle Plains just like that?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “If I could do it then Feng Long will cast his lot with me, if I can’t, then his promises will mean nothing.”
Jing reminded them “You need to leave.”
Feng Long looked at Zhuan Xu and appeared loath to leave but he knew tonight had to be kept a secret so they had to leave “We’re off and we won’t see you again in Xuan Yuan Castle. We’ll wait for you in the Middle Plains!”
Zhuan Xu also was loathed to part, the relationship between a man and a woman was intense and alluring, but when two men’s ambitions and dreams aligned then it was truly like finding a brother “Tonight we can only drink water as wine. Until we meet in the Middle Plains, then we can get drunk!”
Feng Long and Xing Yue put on their cloaks and lefts with the cover of their guards.
Zhuan Xu stood by the door in a daze before remembering Xiao Yao was inside the room. Earlier when Feng Long mentioned “raising an army to head South”, Zhuan Xu’s heart skipped a beat. He walked inside and saw Xiao Yao laying on the pallet sound asleep.
Zhuan Xu relaxed and chided himself for overly worrying. When Feng Long was talking, Zhuan Xu saw him cast a spell to block their conversation clearly knowing a person was in the inner room. But seeing Jing and Zhuan Xu did nothing about the presence of another person, Feng Long knew it was safe to talk but was still cautious and didn’t want anything revealed.
“Xiao Yao, wake up.”
Xiao Yao opened her eyes “They’re gone?”
“Jing is still here.”
Xiao Yao walked out and Jing asked “You were sleeping this afternoon, and sleeping again now. Did you not sleep well last night?”
“No, just a little tired. You interrupted so I didn’t sleep well this afternoon.”
“What did you do today?”
Xiao Yao yawned “Practice archery.”
Right now Xiao Yao was doe-eyed with sleep, her hair mussy, a smile on her lips, she was very adorable that Jing raised his hand but then remember Zhuan Xu was present and quickly put it back down.
Xiao Yao noticed Zhuan Xu’s excited expression and asked “What did you guys talk about that it would led to someone usually so composed like you to be all excited?”
Zhuan Xu asked “Xiao Yao, want to go to Sheng Nong Mountain?”
Sheng Nong Mountain? Wasn’t that close to Qing Qiu? Xiao Yao looked at Jing and she asked Zhuan Xu “Why do I want to go to Sheng Nong Mountain? You need me there for something?”
“I’m going to Sheng Nong Mountain as well.”
“Oh, didn’t you want Xuan Yuan Mountain?” Xiao Yao was wide awake and her eyes open wide staring at Zhuan Xu.
“The plan changed.”
“Oh!” Xiao Yao was confused but figured Zhuan Xu and Feng Long probably settled on a joint strategy “I don’t care. Let’s go to Sheng Nong Mountain then!”
Zhuan Xu and Jing both looked like a heavy burden was lifted.
Jing traced the cup in his hand and smiled – plotting for the past year, he’s finally able to bring her to his side and not have her thousands of miles away.
The maid came “Ah Nian asked if the Prince would like to have dinner.”
Zhuan Xu looked at Xiao Yao and she waved “If I dine with her, you’ll be busy trying to stop an argument.”
Zhuan Xu left and Xiao Yao asked Jing “When are you leaving Xuan Yuan Castle?”
“Tomorrow?” Xiao Yao had no idea what she was supposed to feel.
Jing asked “Have you ever been to Qing Qiu?”
“No, for a while I hated the Nine-tailed fox and legend has it the Nine-tailed fox came from Qing Qiu so I hated Qing Qiu as well. Twice I bypassed it.” Xiao Yao suddenly was very worried “The Nine-tailed fox I killed, it wasn’t one of your relatives?”
“He probably was.” The Nine-tailed fox was very rare, and the few existing ones really were all relatives of the Tu Shan clan.
“What?” Xiao Yao’s mouth dropped open.
Jing couldn’t help but burst out laughing “Relative or no relative, he had it coming based on what he did to you. Even if someone told my grandmother about it, you’re still in the right.”
Xiao Yao patted her chest “You scared the daylights out of me!”
Jing gently said “Actually, Qing Qiu is a lot of fun. After you reach Sheng Nong Mountain, I’ll take you to Qing Qiu to play.”
Xiao Yao said nothing and Jing started fretting “Xiao Yao, you don’t want to come to the Middle Plains?”
Xiao Yao shook her head “No.” She wandered the world all over, and due to her issues with the Yellow Emperor and the Grand Emperor, she mostly stayed in the Middle Plains and she loved it there.
Xiao Yao lowered her head “You sent me nine bottles of plum wine.”
“Then I heard nothing from you.”
Jing thought carefully about what she said and then asked “Are you asking why I didn’t contact you again?”
Jing thought about it and said “First, Feng Long gave me something that was rifled through and I suspected someone close to me was not trustworthy. Before I find out who it is, I have to be careful. Second, both my identity and Zhuan Xu’s identity are very special and it’s not suitable to communicate often. Tu Shan clan has our clan rules. My grandmother already chastised me for sending a present to Zhuan Xu. Thirdly, the last time I saw you, you complained that I was trying to remind you of your promise so I controlled myself not to cause you any more stress.”
The first and second reason were totally acceptable, but the third reason…..Xiao Yao was so infuriated she flopped on the pallet and buried her head in her arms.
“Don’t talk to me! I don’t want to talk to you right now!”
Jing really stopped talking, and Xiao Yao was such a talker she couldn’t take it anymore “When you are leaving tomorrow?”
“First thing in the morning.”
“Play with me tonight!”
Jing’s face lit up with unbridled joy and he nodded.
“Not afraid of people finding out.”
“The fox doll version of me already went back long ago.”
Xiao Yao sighed “I really don’t know if you’re really smart or really stupid.”
Jing said nothing.
Xiao Yao opened the door and saw no one, and then quickly led Jing to her own room.
Once inside with the door closed, they relaxed.
“When I’m not at Cao Yun Peak, I live here.” Xiao Yao sat down and cocked her head to look at him “What shall we play?”
“Whatever you want.”
Xiao Yao looked around, she had no zither, paints, chess, nothing at all and she was annoyed at herself.
Her chest contained all sorts of poisonous juices in various colors like paints and Xiao Yao took it out and placed it before Jing and then placed four of her handkerchiefs before him as well.
Xiao Yao handed him a little brush “Paint me a few portraits!”
“What do you want?”
Jing picked a dark green color and Xiao Yao said “Be careful, this is poisonous bark root.”
Jing didn’t seem to care and continued to draw whatever Xiao Yao wanted while she sat down watching him draw.
“Butterfly. Once time I wanted to make a poisonous butterfly but I can’t draw well so the one I made was dopey.”
Jing heard she wanted to make poisons so he drew it smaller and then carefully drew ten more butterflies for her.”
Xiao Yao sprawled on the table looking at it.
Jing saw she was sleepy “Tell me what you want and I’ll draw it while you sleep.”
Xiao Yao shook her head.
Jing finished the butterfly and Xiao Yao said “The remaining two, you decide.”
Jing picked up the brush and drew a cliffside jagged beach scene and the other he drew peach blossoms without any green leaves or stems so it looked like Xiao Yao’s birthmark was all over the handkerchief.
Xiao Yao blushed “There you go again, as if people will forget!”
Jing wasn’t thinking anything and simply drew what was in his heart. Hearing what Xiao Yao said, he was embarrassed and nervous so his brush dropped and ink splattered on his hand “I…I didn’t mean that.”
Xiao Yao lowered her head and her voice was whisper soft “I….I didn’t say you couldn’t mean that.”
Jing stared at Xiao Yao, and the his body suddenly moved towards her and pushed her on her back and his lips landed right on the corner of her lips.
Jing couldn’t even enjoy what that felt like before his face turned white “I….that wasn’t me…I…..I didn’t…..” He wanted to sit up but couldn’t move at all.
Xiao Yao was so shocked she burst out laughing. She hugged Jing and turned him over “I know it’s not you, you just got poisoned. I told you to be careful!”
Xiao Yao felt his pulse, put a pill in a cup of water, sat down next to Jing and propped him up, and placed the cup on his lips “Drink half.”
Jing’s face was a little paralyzed so he drank slowly. They both remembered when in Qing Shui Town, Xiao Yao fed him like this for a good half year.
“Hey….I said drink half!” She moved the cup away “If you keep drinking, I’ll need to give you another antidote.”
Xiao Yao put the cup down “You’ll be able to move in a bit.”
Jing said nothing and quietly laid in Xiao Yao’s arms. She didn’t put him down either and continued to hold him.
After a long time, Xiao Yao asked “Can you move?”
Jing’s eyes were closed and appeared like he still couldn’t move.
Xiao Yao put a pill next to his mouth and he swallowed it.
“You’re not even going to ask what it is?”
Jing said nothing so Xiao Yao said to him “Don’t you want to find out who the spy is around you. Take those handkerchiefs back and put it where people can rummage through. You haven’t painted in years so the person will likely find it suspicious and look at it to try and see if there is a coded message on it. The poison will enter the body. There is no antidote to all the various poisons on the handkerchief. The pill I just gave you, within half a year most of the poisons won’t harm you so you can handle the handkerchiefs.”
“Will the person die?”
“Not likely unless he/she bleeds.” Xiao Yao sighed “I knew you would ask for an antidote. You are too soft!”
Jing said nothing.
Xiao Yao released the crown tying his hair up and his hair fell all around him. She put her hands in his hair and felt how smooth and strong it was. Xiao Yao asked “Does Jing Ye or Lan Xiang wash your hair now?”
“Who else is serving you?” Xiao Yao wanted to jerk his hair off.
“Not used to it anymore, I wash it myself.”
Xiao Yao’s anger turned to glee and she lightly played with his hair. Jing was like a content cat being stroked. Xiao Yao secretly grinned “Last time on the sea when you leaned against the side with your hair on your back, I wanted to touch it.”
Jing smiled and wanted to open his eyes to look at her but she put her hands over his eyes “No, stay like this.” If he opened his eyes, she would be embarrassed.
Jing obediently kept his eyes closed.
Xiao Yao played with his hair, even sniffing it and being happy it smelled like her medicinal herbs. Xiao Yao murmured “I haven’t washed your hair for you in a long time. Next time let me wash your hair.”
Jing smiled “Sure.”
Xiao Yao yawned and Jing sat up “Xiao Yao, you’re tired. Go sleep.”
Xiao Yao felt her arms were empty and Jing pushed her down “Be good.”
Xiao Yao really was tired so she laid down on the pallet and pulled him “You lay down, I want to keep touching your hair.”
Jing laid down and Xiao Yao’s hands played with his hair “Will you be gone when I wake up tomorrow?”
“When you arrive in the Middle Plains, I’ll come get you.”
Xiao Yao closed her eyes “Whatever you do, just don’t make me wait too long.”
Jing finally got up his courage and asked “Xiao Yao, are you missing me?”
No one answered him.
Jing’s heart fell until he called out “Xiao Yao.”
Xiao Yao’s eyes were tightly closed and she was in deep blissful slumber. Jing was relieved and smiled.
In the morning, Xiao Yao woke up and found a blanket covering her.
All the things on the desk had been arranged neatly and only three handkerchiefs remained.
Xiao Yao wanted to go grab the handkerchiefs when she felt something on her hand. She looked down and it was a long strand of hair tightly wound around her finger. Likely when Jing was leaving, he didn’t want to wake her up so he cut the strand off.
Xiao Yao looked at the strand on her finger and fell back on the pallet. Right now he was god knows where already, leaving only a strand to tie around her thoughts.