This chapter starts the second volume of the novel Lost You Forever. This volume has the English title Love You Forever and really does spend a lot of time on that pesky feeling called love. I think it’s safe now to reveal my personal preferences in this novel, I kept it close to the vest so I don’t influence readers and everyone can form their own first impressions of the characters and this magical expansive world they inhabit. My favorite character in the novel is Xiang Liu. By far. Xiao Yao is easily my second favorite character, and might even be equal to how much I adore Xiang Liu’s complexity and depth but for the way her character kinda faltered for me in the third volume. It’s really just grasping at tiny differences in straws because ultimately I love all the leads so so much for their vivid and unique characters. Zhuan Xu is totally my boo and I’ll be the first to defend all his actions because boy has had it rough and to survive and rule the world in the end isn’t an easy road to walk down. Even though I’m crazy in love with Xiang Liu, shipping him with Xiao Yao is like a recipe for combustible disaster. All signs point to Jing being the best choice for the girl in the end, and really his sweetness and perseverance is incredibly swoon worthy.
Who doesn’t want a man who does whatever you want and you actually believe him when he says that he will give up everything for you. I tend to find Jing mostly dull as beans to read in the novel but that doesn’t lessen my love for him. Compared to the other two male leads, he is mostly lacking in sparks with Xiao Yao but what they share it a desire to live a long long life together, and I root for the maturity in knowing that romance may burn out and passion is fleeting but a lifetime dedication is precious indeed. The problem with this novel is that the three guys in Xiao Yao’s life love her in their own way, and it’s hard not to wish there was three of her so each one gets a Xiao Yao and everyone gets a happy ending. If folks can put their personal character preferences aside in deciding whether or not to keep reading this novel, I guarantee the journey truly is rewarding and the wondrous world Tong Hua created unforgettable. Chapter 18 takes all the characters from Xuan Yuan Mountain over to the Middle Plains and the legendary Sheng Nong Mountain. This chapter also is the first real scene where Xiao Yao is in the same place as all three of her guys and we also get to see Xiao Yao spend quality time with each male lead. I honestly can watch her hanging out with such amazing guys forever.
Chapter 18 – Green Plum Collects Longing:
Sheng Nong Mountain was located in the center of the Middle Plains. The vistas were beautiful and awe-inspiring, with twenty-eight peaks in total. The North was connected to the center of the military outpost in Zhe Province, the South linked to the rich lands of the Yen Province, the East was protected by the Dan River, and the West was the famous Zhi Yi Castle.
Zhi Yi was once the capital of the Sheng Nong Kingdom and was severely damaged in the battle between Sheng Nong and Xuan Yuan. The riches faded and the people suffered. A hundred years ago, Sheng Nong tribe’s Little Zhu Rong was tasked with becoming the castle warden of Zhi Yi Castle and running the entire Middle Plains. He convinced the Qing Qiu Tu Shan clan’s Grand Madam to make Zhi Yi the center of the Tu Shan businesses again. Little Zhu Rong’s wife was the daughter of the Chi Sui clan leader, and the Chi Sui clan was the head of the Four Great Clans, so with the support of the Chi Sui and Tu Shan clans within a short time Zhi Yi Castle was once again the most prosperous bustling place in all of the Middle Plains.
Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu arrived in the Middle Plains a month ago and he ought to have gone straight to Sheng Nong Mountain to do his official duty, but instead he stayed in Zhi Yi Castle and wined and dined every day and night. This news traveled back to Cang Lin and Yu Yang and they felt even more relieved.
It wasn’t until the Yellow Emperor sent an envoy to chastise Zhuan Xu did he reluctantly decamp to Sheng Nong Mountain.
Sheng Nong Mountain’s Zhi Jin Summit had Zhi Jin Palace, the residence of each Flame Emperor. It was the symbol of the entire Middle Plains so the guards stationed there were very careful and the Palace remained in good condition. Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao lived in Zhi Jin Palace and to give respect to the Flame Emperors of the past, neither wanted to live in the residences where the Flame Emperor or Flame Empress used to live. They picked two small courts to the side, reportedly where the Sheng Nong Princess and Prince once lived.
Despite being sent by the Yellow Emperor, Zhuan Xu arrived in Sheng Nong Mountain and was still nonchalant and goofing off. He had two beautiful personal maids, one refined and the other seductive, both were world class beauties.
Every night Zhuan Xu would party with his maids leaving him without any energy during the day. Sometimes he would fall asleep in the middle of talking. Thank god when Zhuan Xu left Xuan Yuan Castle, the Yellow Emperor sent along officials that understood architecture so they handled all the renovation details and went to Zhuan Xu for the final yes or no.
No one dared touch Zhi Jin Palace so after much discussion it was decided to start from the side courts first. All Zhuan Xu needed to do was tour the renovation sites and offer casual comments.
During the entire Palace renovation, the workers and the materials were the two main necessities. The Tu Shan clan provided all the best quality materials at a reasonable price and the officials conferred and urged Zhuan Xu to buy everything from them. The quality was guaranteed and later on if something happened, they could go ask the Tu Shan clan to deal with it.
Zhaun Xu heard this and drowsily said sure.
Everyone thought Zhuan Xu was whoring all night so he had no energy during the day, but in reality Xiao Yao was helping him detox from the drug addiction.
The two beautiful maids serving Zhuan Xu, the refined one was Jin Xuan, the seductive one was Xiao Xiao. The first time Xiao Yao saw Jin Xuan, she recognized her as a true beauty, but the once ordinary looking Xiao Xuao turned out to be an incomparable beauty as well once she washed off her disguise makeup.
Jin Xuan was Zhuan Xu’s information collector and her skill was gathering data. The seductive Xiao Xiao was one of the personal guards that Zhuan Xu trained and one of his best. Xiao Yao sighed, one really can’t judge another on looks. Xiao Xiao was unwavering in her loyalty to Zhuan Xu, if he handed her a knife she would slit her throat immediately at his one nod. As for Jin Xuan, Xiao Yao didn’t know what Zhuan Xu was thinking. She wasn’t as trusting of people as Zhuan Xu, but if he chose to keep Jin Xuan beside him, then she chose to trust Jin Xuan for now as well.
Every night, Zhuan Xu would be locked in a sealed safe room to endure indescribable agony. He thought he was mentally strong enough to control it, but the drug addiction was greater than even he anticipated. It controlled his mind and when the addiction flared up, he would howl in a screaming raw voice that shredded his throat, ripping at his own flesh, even slamming into the wall to harm himself.
Zhuan Xu allowed no one to see this most deplorable side of him except for Xiao Yao.
An addict in detox usually chose to tie himself up, but Xiao Yao knew Zhuan Xu didn’t want to tie himself up. If he didn’t use his own will power to detox from the addiction, then he would come to doubt whether his choice to go down this path was correct. So when Jin Xuan handed her a dragon tendon rope, Xiao Yao turned her down “He doesn’t need it. The only rope that can tie him is his own willpower.”
Every night, Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu would hide in the sealed safe room together. Xiao Yao would talk to him, telling him all sorts of things, or asking Zhuan Xu to tell her stories, anything to divert his attention. When he couldn’t control himself, she would use her body to press down on him and it would usually make him more alert.
During the most painful nights, Zhuan Xu would hurt Xiao Yao during his attacks. But the moment Xiao Yao bled, Zhuan Xu would quickly regain consciousness. He laid on the ground with his arms wrapped around his knees and curled into a ball shaking. All of his strength was used to combat the drug addiction and he was as weak as an infant.
Xiao Yao held him and for whatever reason, she started to hum their childhood lullabies. Some her mom sang to her, others her aunt sang to Zhuan Xu. Many lyrics she had forgotten so she hummed it.
Hearing her singing, Zhuan Xu would survive another attack and gradually calm down until he fell asleep.
As he dreamed, there were tears in the corner of his eyes and Xiao Yao felt hers were wet as well.
Inside this sealed room, Zhuan Xu seemed so weak. She was as well. They were once the most precious treasures in their moms arms. Carefully protected and loved. If their moms knew what their precious babies were enduring, would they regret abandoning them?
Every night Zhuan Xu battled the drug addiction, and every day he had to handle official matters.
Whatever information Jin Xuan collected, he would review it all and then give instructions to Xiao Xiao. She would spread the information through their network of trusted guards.
Jin Xuan could tell Zhuan Xu was sending orders to his secret guards for something. He seemed on the surface really unreliable, letting his subordinates run the entire Palace renovation, but in truth Jin Xuan knew that he had carefully inspected each and every court and residence in the Palace and used his shaking hands to take personal notes.
Jin Xuan saw former drug addicts, no matter how strong, all became destroyed by the addiction. But Zhuan Xu continued to battle the addiction and still handle official matters. Jin Xuan finally understood what Xiao Yao said: the only rope in this world that could bind Zhuan Xu was his willpower.
After surviving the hardest few days, Zhuan Xu used his incredible willpower to control even the pain. He never showed any weakness in front of Xiao Yao again, and even if the addition came, he would put his arm in his mouth and viciously bite down to stifle the pain.
Drops of blood trickled down but Xiao Yao appeared not to notice and continued talking. After the pain passed and Zhuan Xu laid spent on the ground, then Xiao Yao would walk over and apply medicine for him.
Night after night, Zhuan Xu’s pain lessened until he would have no expression whatsoever. He would sit there and quietly listen to Xiao Yao talk or sing and that was enough for him to deal with the pain.
Two months later, Zhuan Xu successfully detoxed from the addiction.
It wasn’t until even the remnants of the drugs in his system were completely flushed did Xiao Yao relax at last.
Zhuan Xu continued his former life, playing with the maids at night and sleeping during the day, only Xiao Yao, Jin Xuan, and Xiao Xiao knew what he went though.
Jin Xuan once promised Zhu Yu that she would treat Zhuan Xu as her master. She admired him for being handsome, capable, and talented, but now she grew to respect him and was in awe.
A few boxes were placed before Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu said “That Tu Shan Jing has gone crazy!”
He opened the boxes and inside contained one hundred and five bottles of wine. From when she and Zhuan Xu arrived in the Middle Plains, it had been exactly one hundred and five days.
The first day they arrived, Jing asked to see her. But Xiao Yao needed to helped Zhuan Xu detox so she declined until she had time to see him.
Jing was very obedient and never asked to see her again. Only every fifteen days, he would send a box of plum wine exactly in the amount of the days that passed.
In the past, Xiao Yao could drink all this wine. But she was helping Zhuan Xu detox so she didn’t dare drink. She put it all away and now the wine cellar had hundred of bottles.
Zhuan Xu took out a bottle “What kind of promise involves fifteen between you two? I notice Jing likes to play with fifteen as if reminding you of something.”
Xiao Yao opened a bottle and gulped it “A few months of no wine, I sure miss it.”
Zhuan Xu played with the bottle in his hand and casually said “Missing wine is fine, don’t miss the person.”
Xiao Yao made a face at him “Send word for me that I can see him now.”
Zhuan Xu stared at the bottle in his hand and his lips were pressed in a tight line.
Xiao Yao called “Zhuan Xu?”
Zhuan Xu appeared to snap out of it and opened his bottle and drank it before saying with a smile “Sure.”
That night Xiao Yao was sleeping when she opened her eyes and saw a astral projection of a little nine-tailed fox sitting next to her pillow staring intently at her.
Xiao Yao laughed and put on her clothes as she got up “Where is your master?”
The fox passed through the wall and Xiao Yao opened the door and ran after it.
There were many courts in Zhi Jin Palace and it had been hundreds of years since any were lived it so it appeared desolate. The little white fox jumped and lead Xiao Yao down a quiet path until it reached a forest where a white crane was elegantly waiting for her.
Xiao Yao recognized it as Jing’s winged ride named Li Li.
Xiao Yao smiled and greeted Li Li before vaulting on its back.
The Sheng Nong air space was controlled by a spiritual power grid that prevented people from entering, but within the mountain as long as it was at low altitude and avoided the guards, then it was safe.
Li Li took Xiao Yao to one of its peaks shrouded in clouds. There was a waterfall that ended in a large pool, and not far from there was a wooden hut which was a few yards from the edge of a sharp cliff drop.
Jing stood there wearing a green robe staring at the sky. Standing still and silent under the moonlight, he appeared just like a stalk of bamboo, elegant and true.
The white crane descended and the little white fox ran into Jing’s sleeve and disappeared.
Xiao Yao jumped down “I asked Zhuan Xu to send word this morning, wasn’t expecting to see you for a few days.”
Jing stared at Xiao Yao and couldn’t speak. Since their Xuan Yuan Castle parting, it had been seventeen months since he last saw her. The first months he was prepared since he knew Zhuan Xu needed to plan how to come to the Middle Plains, but these last three months had been sheer torture. He knew Xiao Yao had things to do and couldn’t see him, but his heart worried that she didn’t want to see him because she no longer missed him.
Xiao Yao asked “Hey, why are you not talking?”
Jing replied “You said last time….you wanted to wash my hair. The tree leaves are grown now.”
Xiao Yao smiled “Okay, let’s find a sunny day and go pick leaves.”
Jing finally relaxed and smiled.
Xiao Yao asked “Was it hard to come see me?”
“Sheng Nong Mountain has tight barriers to the outside but lax within. Tu Shan clan can enter easily now and walk around the whole mountain. Only Zhi Jin Palace where you and Zhuan Xu live is tightly guarded. I don’t want to alert the guards so had little fox go get you.”
Xiao Yao suddenly realized “You have been close by this whole time?” Only being close to Sheng Nong Mountain could he receive word in the morning and get here by nighttime.
“Yes, I came a few times already to inspect the Palace renovation and looked around all the peaks. I chanced upon this place and saw it was very remote and quiet and really liked it.”
Xiao Yao looked around “This place is nice, ringed by cliffs on three sides and only one path down the mountain which is secluded and hidden. But who on Sheng Nong Mountain would live in a wooden hut?”
“I asked the guards and no one knows. All they know is that this peak is called Cao Ao Crest and is a Sheng Nong forbidden area.”
Xiao Yao’s face changed and she rushed into the hut while Jing walked on the outside of her to shield her from the cliff side.
She opened the door and inside looked untouched. A rug was on the pallet, there was fresh fruit on plates on the table, two vases sat on the windows with fresh flowers in it. The hut was very simply decorated and warm, like it’s owner merely went out for the day.
Jing said “When I found this place, I tidied it up a little but it wasn’t dirty before. The owner must be a truly powerful being with great spiritual powers. Even after thousands of years, the spiritual essence gathered here is still strong so this hut hasn’t aged at all. It’s hard to believe there would be someone with powers so strong.”
Xiao Yao glanced around – everything was the most simple, revealing the owner didn’t like luxury and only wanted to live easily.
Xiao Yao sat on the pallet “Do you know who the owner of the hut is?”
Jing could tell Xiao Yao knew “Who?”
“That most infamous, vicious, brutal devil monster in the entire vast wilderness. I flipped through the books in the Sheng Nong library and read that the Sheng Nong Flame Emperor deemed Cao Ao Crest a forbidden area because of him.”
There were a lot of demons, beasts, and monsters in the vast wilderness that were called brutal and vicious, but to earn the “most infamous” moniker there was ever only one such person “Qi Yo?”
Xiao Yao nodded with a smile “Everyone thought he craved power and wealth but who would have known his residence in Sheng Nong Mountain is so simple.”
Jing knew Xiao Yao’s mother died in battle with Qi Yo and apologized “I didn’t know this was his residence. Let’s leave!”
Xiao Yao shook her head “Why make it difficult for oneself over someone who has been dead for hundreds of years. You like this place, I like this place, let’s treat this place as our….home. We can meet here.”
Jing was a bit red-faced since he did have the same idea in mind when he was cleaning the place up.
Xiao Yao walked to the window and looked at the vases of flowers “Did you pick these?”
Xiao Yao smiled “Have you been well? Did you find the spy?”
“I did, your idea was great, it was Lan Xiang.”
These personal maids were with Jing since he was small so there was a lot of affection so Xiao Yao said “Did you decide to forgive her?”
“She wouldn’t reveal who she betrayed me for so I don’t want to kill her but can’t keep her. I had Jing Ye take her away but Jing Ye grew up with her since they were small so she was so angry and must’ve have said something to her. Lan Xiang committed suicide.” Jing looked sad “Actually I know who she betrayed me for. I had Jing Ye send her away to end her value to the person using her, and if my brother had no use for her and didn’t contact her, then she would forget my brother.”
Xiao Yao remembered that monster fish and the man riding in on the waves with the sun shining on him, his manly power was very different from Jing’s quiet stillness, and it was even more attractive to a woman.
Xiao Yao asked “You don’t want to kill Hou?”
“Even though mother was always unfair, but since birth he never treated me poorly. We had no dad and he got no love from mother, so he placed all the familial love he craved on me. He was my age but acted like an older brother and dad surrogate, always taking care of me. When I got complimented he would beam with pride. I once asked him why and he said that even if he hurt, I was his beloved younger brother and he was proud of me. We were loving brothers that were the envy of all. He really was an exceptional older brother for four hundred years. Xiao Yao, I can’t kill him!” Jing’s voice conveyed his sadness and regret and guilt, because he knew his choice would bind him and bind Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao walked over and put her head on his shoulder “I complain that you’re too soft-hearted, but actually….I would rather you be soft-hearted.” She was surrounded by too many cold-hearted people – her grandfather, her dad, Zhuan Xu, two maternal side uncles, all those cousins, even herself. They were all ruthless, which is why Jing’s soft-hearted nature made her feel safe and she liked it.
Jing embraced Xiao Yao and she kept her head on his shoulder and they stood there.
“Xiao Yao, what is it?”
“Zhuan Xu had matters that needed my help so I’ve been so busy and so tired lately. Not my body tired, more like my spirit is tired. I worried about making a mistake and always busy but it made me think a lot of the past. It’s unbelievable that Zhuan Xu and I didn’t have parents, and yet here we are, both of us grew up.”
Jing held her “If I knew you were tired, I wouldn’t have come see you tonight!”
Xiao Yao laughed “The heart being tired isn’t cured by sleep.” She looked out at the pool and took his hand “Go play in the water with me.”
It was Summer so the water wasn’t cold as Xiao Yao jumped right in. She swam one circle and dove underwater thinking it wasn’t too deep but it was much deeper than she thought so before she hit bottom she needed to come up for air.
Jing sat on a rock smiling at her.
Xiao Yao rapped her head “I’m so stupid!” She took out the fish amethyst from her robe “I forgot you got me this treasure.”
Xiao Yao sprawled on a rock splashing water with her feet “Let’s go play in the ocean next time. It’s so beautiful in the bottom of the ocean and even playing all night it doesn’t get boring.”
Xiao Yao thought about Xiang Liu and buried her face in her arms and went silent. She didn’t know if he was Xiang Liu or Fang Feng Bei right now. Suddenly she grabbed Jing’s arm and pulled him into the water “Go to the bottom with me.”
She didn’t wait for Jing to answer before putting the fish amethyst in her mouth and diving down with Jing.
She pulled Jing down with her but the pool was so deep there was no bottom in sight. Even those with strong powers couldn’t stand too long underwater so Jing grabbed her hand and pointed to the top indicating he was going up.
Xiao Yao shook her head and wouldn’t let him. She wanted him with her.
Jing’s face was changing color but he allowed Xiao Yao to continue to pull him down. She wrapped her arms around his neck and put her lips on his to pass him air. Jing’s body stiffened and he was so shocked he started choking.
Xiao Yao quickly gave him another breath of air.
Jing’s entire body was stiff but he descended with her until they hit bottom. It was dark and nothing was there so Xiao Yao pulled Jing up. He seemed to snap out of it and used his strength to swim up with her. She pointed to her lips indicating for him to get another breath of air but he didn’t. Jing used his one breath and made it to the surface but he was in pain and gasping on the rock.
Xiao Yao asked angrily “Why?”
Jing stared in the distance and said in a low voice “Because you didn’t have me in your eyes back there.”
Xiao Yao said nothing and walked towards the hut. She didn’t have much power so she took her off wet clothes and dried herself before huddling in the blanket. “You can come in now.”
Jing sat down on the pallet and took a towel to dry her hair and then a comb to brush it. Years ago, Xiao Liu took care of Shi Qi like this, and Shi Qi used to take care of Xiao Liu like this. Gradually the mood warmed up between them and both smiled.
Xiao Yao sighed “In the past we saw each other every day, not once every few years. Sometimes when I want to talk to people now, I can’t find them.”
Jing said “In the future Tu Shan clan can often come to Sheng Nong Mountain so its easy for me to come see you. Qing Qiu is also close to Sheng Nong Mountain so it’s easy for you to come to Qing Qiu.”
“The Heavens seem to be helping us. Zhuan Xu wanted to come to the Middle Plains and there was a Palace here that needed to be renovated. Zhuan Xu and I moved in and the Palace restoration needs big businesses like you guys so the Tu Shan clan becomes the supplier choice making it easy for you to come and go.” Xiao Yao glanced over “Did Feng Long and Zhuan Xu con you onto doing all this?”
Jing replied “No, it wasn’t them, I wanted to do all this.”
Xiao Yao smiled “I’m not blaming you since the Palace needs to be renovated so rather than give money to others why not to the Tu Shan clan. With your connection with my Gege, if only you help him it’s not a good thing but now he can return the favor so it is a relief for him.”
This was actually exactly what Jing thought. Feng Long had grand ambitions and wanted to work with Zhuan Xu to build an empire. But what he wanted was simply to be close to Xiao Yao. But if he said it no one would believe him. So let others think he wants more money and now Zhuan Xu steered some money his way, he feels more relieved and this relationship could continue growing.
Jing looked at Xiao Yao and smiled.
Xiao Yao angrily grabbed his hand and bit it hard “Am I in your eyes?”
Jing hurt in his hand but was happy in his heart “Yes.”
The second day, Zhuan Xu was already up when Xiao Yao came back.
He was having breakfast when Xiao Yao sat down and silently started to eat.
He asked coolly “Went to see Jing?”
Xiao Yao grinned “Yup.”
Zhuan Xu said “I know he means more to you but he’s not Ye Shi Qi anymore, he’s Tu Shan Jing. I received news that the Grand Madam is ill and wants Jing to quickly assume the clan leader mantle. He carries the weight of his entire clan on his back and can’t do whatever he wants. Jing and Fang Feng Yi Yang is engaged and the Fang Feng family won’t give up a chance to marry with the Tu Shan clan. Jing can’t end this engagement easily! Stop tossing yourself in head first!”
Xiao Yao’s smile faded and she mumbled “I know.”
Zhuan Xu said nothing more when he saw the way she was.
After dinner, Xiao Yao took out a box “For you!”
Zhuan Xu opened it and it was a furry doll that was a spiritual object made with the tail of a Nine-tailed fox. He tossed it back “I don’t want it!”
“Gege, you have to take it! I asked Jing to make this for you. It combined spiritual power and this doll can only transform into you. You need to use it to create a substitute, and one so real even Jin Xuan and Xiao Xiao can’t tell the difference immediately. I know you are angry at the Nine-tailed fox who hurt me, but that just means you need to use it to protect yourself now. If you are protected, I can worry less!”
Actually, Zhuan Xi didn’t want it not just because it was from the Nine-tailed fox, but more because another man made it for Xiao Yao. But he saw how serious she was and his heart softened. No matter who made the doll and what it was made from, inside contained all the care she had for him. He had to survive so that he could continue to take care of her. Zhuan Xu reached out his hand.
Xiao Yao put the doll in his hand and he gripped it “I have something for you too.”
Zhuan Xu handed a scroll to her “This contains all the background information on Fang Feng Bei.”
Xiao Yao was stunned for a moment before taking it. She spent the entire day poring over the background report.
The report started from the moment Fang Feng Bei was born.
Fang Feng Bei’s life was exactly that of a second son in a large family, living an ordinary life. He was good at learning the spiritual powers, but because his brother and sister were even better and they were born of the first wife, no matter how hard he worked his brother and sister were always more prominent. Because he was so bitter, he ended up with a gambling addiction.
Around four hundred and eighty years ago, the teenage Fang Feng Bei ran away from home to earn money to repay his gambling debts. He went to the North Pole to look for ice crystals. He was gone for almost fifty years, which wasn’t a very long time to be away from home for the Gods, but because he went to a place that was dangerous beyond comprehension, his family assumed he died there. Who could have expected he would suddenly return home with lots of ice crystals. One would call it returning in glory.
Xiao Yao felt those nearly fifty years was very suspicious. During that length of time missing, even if Fang Feng Bei returned changed people would assume he had endured great hardship in the North Pole and accept his growing up. But what made him accepted as the same guy was that he spent the next four years diligently taking care of his sick mother to the degree that was astounding, from feeding her every meal and medicine to sitting beside her every day. Even now four hundred years later, if people in the know were asked about Fang Feng Bei, they would still say very proudly “Bei is very filial.”
After his mom died shortly after he returned, in those four hundred years since he lived the perfect life of a rich family spare son and dissolute playboy. He wasn’t greatly used by the family and he also didn’t have a lot of money, but he was very easygoing and loved to spend money, so he would do all sorts of random things to earn his keep. He would disappear for chunks of time from months to even years, and his friends and family all got used to it.
Because Fang Feng Bei’s personality was very relaxed and didn’t like to fight for anything, his relationship with his brother Fang Feng Zheng and his sister Fang Feng Yi Yang was very cordial.
Xiao Yao sighed. If what she suspected was true, the real Fang Feng Bei died over four hundred years ago and no one knows the current one is fake. Because Xiang Liu had been living as Fang Feng Bei for over four hundred years, even if he was fake initially over time he was accepted as the real one – so the Fang Feng Bei everyone has known in his entire adult life has always been Xiang Liu.
But why? What was Xiang Liu trying to get out of it? Fang Feng family was prominent enough but he could have impersonated a son from an even more powerful family. Plus Fang Feng Bei was concubine born so he had no influence in the Fang Feng family. If Xiang Liu wanted anything, he would have chosen better.
Xiao Yao mulled it over for a long time but couldn’t figure out Xiang Liu’s reason for doing it. This was a pretense that wasn’t just for a year or two, he was already Fang Feng Bei before she was even born. Xiao Yao gave up trying to figure it out.
In the middle of Summer, Zhuan Xu received an invitation from Xing Yue and Feng Long inviting him and Xiao Yao to Little Zhu Rong’s residence for their upcoming birthday celebration.
The Gods had a long life span so birthdays were not a big deal and usually only celebrated on whole numbers like hundreds or thousands. Actually, they lived so long the Gods would long forget how old they were. Only in the powerful families that really catered to their kids did birthdays get celebrated more often.
Feng Long and Xing Yue were twins so they celebrated birthdays together by inviting friends and having a small getogether.
Xiao Yao arrived to discover it wasn’t a small getogether, Feng Long and Xing Yue were very popular in the vast wilderness, which made sense since both were single, wealthy, scions of the most powerful of families, good looking, they were probably the most eligible kids in the vast wilderness.
The maid went to announce them and Feng Long and Xing Yue came out personally to bring them in. Xing Yue was very warm and immediately linked arms with Xiao Yao “You never attend any banquets so my brother and I were worried you wouldn’t come today either.”
Xiao Yao smiled “I’m really lazy so I turn down all invitations, but since this banquet invitation came from you and Feng Long, I had to come.”
Even if what she said was merely a polite excuse, Xing Yue was still happy to hear it.
Xing Yue and Feng Long led them into a large garden that had fake rock mountains, innumerable strange and exotic plants, and a stream winding through it until it became a waterfall descending into a small pond. The garden helped to dissipate the Summer heat.
Xing Yue pointed to the rock mountain “It looks just like a fake rock mountain but is actually a spiritual maze. My brother and I were wild as kids so our dad created this maze and we could get lost in it for an entire day. Today there is a crowd so if you like some peace and quiet, we can go explore it later.”
Because it was so hot, a lot of people were wearing wooden sandals and under the tree awning two young girls took off their sandals and played in the water by the pool.
Xing Yue laughed “That is the Tan family and the Shen family daughters. They are cousins, and my maternal grandmother is the daughter of the Shen family so I am also their extended cousin. Most of the relatives are gathered in this courtyard.”
Xiao Yao said “But I’m not.”
Xing Yue laughed “How can you not be? Your maternal grandmother Empress Lei Zhu was the daughter of the Xi Ling clan, one of the Four Great Clans. You maternal grandmother is actually the cousin of my paternal grandmother, so that makes us extended cousins as well. Plus the current Xi Ling clan leader married the Kang family daughter who is cousins with the Shen family….which means we’re related that way as well.”
As Xing Yue talked and walked Xiao Yao’s mouth was open “I’m totally dizzy from all that relating.”
Xing Yue laughed “I heard from my grandmother that the Xi Ling clan is also related to the Tu Shan clan through marriage a few generations ago as well. If we go down our relations, not sure if we’re cousins, or aunts, or grand-aunts.”
They had walked into a room by then and everyone laughed to hear that. Xiao Yao sighed and realized why the Yellow Emperor saw the Middle Plains as a challenge. All the bloodlines were connected and even if the clans and families were rivals, when push come to shove they would all unite against an outsider enemy. Even more surprising was to hear how powerful the Xi Ling clan and her maternal grandmother was. Everyone wanted to be related to the Xi Ling clan and Lei Zhu, and in comparison the bloodline of the Xuan Yuan Yellow Emperor was less influential here.
Xing Yue grabbed Xiao Yao’s veil “Xiao Yao, everyone here are close friends so take off your veil.” It was a large rest area and Yi Yang walked in from another door and added “Yes, we never got to see you last time, you can’t keep hiding.”
Xiao Yao never intended to be different and saw all the other girls were not wearing veils so she took hers off.
Xing Yue stared at her intently and then sighed “I don’t know who will have the honor of winning your hand.” She pulled Feng Long over to Xiao Yao and teasingly said “I’m not trying to toot my brother’s horn, but in the vast wilderness there really is no one who can mach up to him.”
Yi Yang laughed “You’re shameless!”
Xing Yue grew up in Xuan Yuan Castle so she had the Xuan Yuan woman’s open attitude “Marriage between eligible partners is a totally fine thing to discuss openly. What’s for shame about it?”
Feng Long grew up in the Middle Plains and he felt awkward so said to Zhuan Xu “Let’s go see what Jing is doing” before heading into another room with Zhuan Xu.
Xing Yue ordered the maid to pull open the curtains dividing the two rooms and the curtains opened to reveal three people into the adjoining room. Fang Feng Bei and Tu Shan Hou were laying on the pallet drinking and chatting while Jing sat beside the window looking out the window. Feng Long and Zhuan Xu walked over to join him.
Xiao Yao was stunned, she was expecting Jing but she was shocked to see Fang Feng Bei was also here!
Yi Yang pulled Xiao Yao in “Second brother, look who is here.” Yi Yang’s gesture was clearly to show that Xiao Yao and Bei had a special relationship for everyone else to see.
Fang Feng Bei turned to look at Xiao Yao and broke into a slow smile “You came as well.”
Tu Shan Hou stood up to greet Xiao Yao and she politely returned the greeting while thinking with “what do you mean you came as well”?
Fang Feng Yi Yang winked at Fang Feng Bei “Second Brother, you take good care of Xiao Yao, I’m headed out to play.”
The garden was huge so in a moment Fang Feng Yi Yang disappeared into the fake mountains.
Xiao Yao said in a low voice to Bei “You come with me!”
She walked ahead, he walked behind, the two of them entered the garden and disappeared behind the fake mountains as well.
Standing by the window, Jing, Zhuan Xu, Feng Long, and Xing Yue all saw it clearly. Xing Yue nudged her brother “Gege, you are so stupid! If you don’t work harder Xiao Yao will be stolen.” She wanted to complain about Yi Yang daring to push her brother towards Xiao Yao, but with Jing standing there she held it in.
Xing Yue said to Zhuan Xu “My brother is normally smart but around Xiao Yao he turns stupid. You’re close with my brother, you have to help him.”
Feng Long was too embarrassed to say anything but bowed to Zhuan Xu which said all.
Zhuan Xu smiled “I can only help you create opportunities, as for what Xiao Yao thinks, I can’t decide for her.”
Xing Yue smiled “That’s more than enough.”
She thought about it and suggested “Let’s go play outside as well and look for them. Jing gege, it’s boring in here so come with us!”
The four of them walked out together and traveled through the fake mountain paths. Because it was a spiritual maze, the roads shifted and the scenery would change. Plus they would run into friends and stop to chat, so soon the group split up until only Xing Yue and Zhuan Xu were together.
When Xing Yue was with Zhuan Xu in public, she was bold and playful, but when it was just the two of them, she was quiet and demure. She knew he had two beautiful maids beside him and it bothered her. Her brother said that if she wanted a man who loved only her, then not to pick Zhuan Xu. If she wanted Zhuan Xu, then she can’t expect him to have only her, and had to have the capacity to accept the other women in his life. Xing Yue claimed to understand but it still hurt a lot.
She was in her own world and ran into a rock when the scenery changed and bumped her head. She yowled and rubbed it while Zhuan Xu leaned down to ask “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
Xing Yue didn’t feel much pain but for some reason she started to cry.
Zhuan Xu comforted her like he would a small child “It’s just a little red, you didn’t break skin, some ice will make it fine.”
Xing Yue rushed into his arms and started sobbing loudly. Zhuan Xu was stunned and his arms remained rigid next to his body.
Xing Yue didn’t realize that and her arms were tightly hugging his waist, like this was her only way to grab onto him and put her in the most important spot in his heart against the other women.
After a few moments, Zhuan Xu reached for Xing Yue to continue comforting her. Xing Yue smelled his manly scent and felt dizzying with need and stepped on her tip toes to pull Zhuan Xu in for a kiss.
Xiao Yao led Fang Feng Bei into the maze but had no idea where to go and got lost everywhere until she reached an area dense with trees. It was a good place to talk privately so Xiao Yao stopped.
She whipped around and couldn’t control herself anymore and shouted “Are you insane! This is Little Zhu Rong’s residence, if you’re discovered this time I can’t save you again!”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “This isn’t Xuan Yuan Castle, this is the Middle Plains.”
Xiao Yao was taken aback. Yes, he’s right! This was the Middle Plains, Sheng Nong Kingdom’s original territory. Even though the Yellow Emperor took over rule of the Middle Plains, but the people still respected General Gong Gong and his loyalty to Sheng Nong in refusing to surrender to Xuan Yuan. Even Little Zhu Rong, he was a descendant of Sheng Nong royalty and was likely secretly loyal to the resistance army. The Gods of the Middle Plains might not openly support the resistance army against the Yellow Emperor, but they also wouldn’t help the Yellow Emperor to catch the resistance army.
“Fine! Consider me worried for nothing!” Xiao Yao turned to storm off.
Fang Feng Bei reached out his hand to lean on the tree and block Xiao Yao’s path “How’s archery practice coming along?”
“I keep up with my practice, my grandfather got a master archer to teach me but his method isn’t suitable for me. His method requires strong powers and he thought I was lazy and insisted I build up my powers first. I learned from him a few times and then fired him.”
Fang Feng Bei said “Then I’ll keep teaching you!”
Xiao Yao stared at him slack jawed – Xiang Liu wanted to teach her archery? It was absurd.
Fang Feng Bei laughed “You scared? Where did the courage to go taunt a demon snake go?”
Xiao Yao also laughed “Fine, I’ll learn from you.” She needed to learn and who taught her made no difference. Let it be Xiang Liu then!
Xiao Yao checked him out from top to bottom and used her finger to poke his arm “Did you already die in the North Pole?”
Others would have no clue what she said but Fang Feng Bei casually replied “Yes.”
“Why pick him?”
“I didn’t pick him, he picked me. He was on the verge of death but could not die in peace because of his worry for his mother. So he chose to give me his entire life force and spiritual powers asking only that I be his substitute and take care of his mother. It’s rare to encounter a God who willingly lets a demon devour him, and his request wasn’t hard for me to do so I didn’t turn him down.”
Whether a God willingly was devoured made a huge difference. If a God wasn’t willing and was eaten by a demon, the demon would at most be like ingesting good medicine and could strengthen the body a bit. If a God was willing to be eaten, the demon could absorb all the spiritual power the God had trained hard to develop and the demon powers would multiply greatly.
Xiao Yao once waiting bitterly for her mother to come back for her and understood the agony of waiting. She was a bit envious of Fang Feng Bei’s mother and she gently asked “When you got back, did you see the mother?”
Fang Feng Bei lowered his eyes “I saw her. She was very weak and alone and brokenhearted without anyone by her side. Because I brought back a lot of ice crystals, the Fang Feng family then moved her to a nicer residence and gave her a maid. I stayed with her for another four years before she died in peace and contentment.”
Xiao Yao sighed, Fang Feng Bei and Xiang Liu’s deal had a happy ending. But it was hard to imagine Xiang Liu would carefully take care of an old woman for four years. This was likely why no one doubted that he was Fang Feng Bei! Even someone as calculating as Zhuan Xu saw no reason to be suspicious of him.
Xiao Yao asked “You’ve fulfilled your promise so why continued to be Fang Feng Bei?”
Fang Feng Bei smiled coldly with scorn “To fulfill my promise I put on a show for four years. But in the four hundred years since, I’ve just been myself. Which one of your eyes saw me continuing to pretend to be Fang Feng Bei? Regardless of whether it’s Fang Feng Bei, or Xiang Liu, or Nine-lives, it’s just a name.”
He’s right! The adolescent Fang Feng Bei was vastly different than the adult Fang Feng Bei, but with so long passed everyone had long forgotten what Fang Feng Bei used to be like. Xiao Yao thought back and realized that Fang Feng Bei appeared different than Xiang Liu only on the surface, but the way he didn’t give a damn about anything and didn’t want for anything was the same attitude. The only difference was Xiang Liu appeared to be him when wearing a battle armor and heading to war in the battlefield, while Fang Feng Bei was him who shed the armor and was enjoying exploring the world.
Fang Feng Bei mocked her “You’ve changed identities way more than me. Are all of them play-acting for you?”
Xiao Yao shook her head “No matter how I change, I am still me. Except I’m not as able to let things go like you are, and some things still matter to me.”
Xiao Yao stared at Xiang Liu and gingerly asked “Is this….your real face?”
“Who has the patience to wear a fake face for four hundred years. And every time I change I’ll need to worry about changing back wrong.”
“You look like Fang Feng Bei?”
“No, we don’t look alike. But when Fang Feng Bei ran away from home he was still an adolescent and his looks wasn’t full matured. Plus he was injured in the North Pole and his face required a doctor to fix up after he got home.”
Xiao Yao suddenly felt her heart set down a burden and she smiled “They all say you have nine faces and eighty-one forms, is that true?”
Fang Feng Bei glanced at the forest and furrowed his brow before crooking his finger at Xiao Yao. She was scared and shocked and put her hand on her neck “I didn’t say anything mean about you! I was just curious.”
Fang Feng Bei narrowed his eyes and asked “You want to come over, or shall I go over?”
Xiao Yao stop delaying and slowly inched closer to him. Fang Feng Bei lowered his head and Xiao Yao scrunched her neck and used both hands to wrap around it and pleaded “If you want to bite, bite my arm!”
Fang Feng Bei whispered right against her ear “Someone is hiding there spying on us.”
Xiao Yao was furious at the spy and asked “And you didn’t stop it?”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “Just reminding you that I’m the spare son so I shouldn’t make a scene.” Fang Feng Bei put an ice arrow in Xiao Yao’s hand “Princess, show me how your archery skill has improved.”
Xiao Yao asked “Where is the person?”
Fang Feng Bei held Xiao Yao’s hand and directed it “Over there.”
Xiao Yao concentrated and threw the arrow from her hand. A shadow moved and a person stepped out from behind the tree.
It was Jing!
Xiao Yao hurriedly asked “Did it hit you? I didn’t know it was you.”
Jing handed the arrow to Fang Feng Bei who accepted it and said teasingly “How come it’s just you alone, didn’t you accompany my sister to play?”
Xiao Yao knew she had been toyed with by Fang Feng Bei and angrily yelled “Fang Feng Bei!”
Fang Feng Bei turned to her with a twinkle in his eye and a smile “Yes? You called me?”
Xiao Yao was utterly speechless – she felt right now he was being so manipulative and unreasonable and totally devious, like all the flaws in both Xiang Liu and Fang Feng Bei were combined together into one person. What could she do? She could only hope the next time he was injured he wouldn’t come looking for her!
Xiao Yao turned to leave, fairly leaping and jumping out of there, she couldn’t wait to get away from that damn demon!
Jing moved to follow her and took two steps before Fang Feng Bei caught up with a smile and tapped his shoulder before pointing in the other direction “I think I just saw my sister over there looking for you.”
Jing had no choice but to stop and watch Fang Feng Bei and Xiao Yao disappear into the forest.
Xiao Yao turned to glare at Fang Feng Bei and snarked “Was that fun, toying someone so straightforward?”
Tu Shan Jing straightforward? Fang Feng Bei’s eyebrows raised at that and he snarked back “Not as fun as toying with you.”
Xiao Yao refused to concede defeat “The days ahead are long, between the two of us, who toys with whom, who torments whom, who is mean to whom, that is still unclear so you watch it!”
Fang Feng Bei grinned “Not bad, being a Princess definitely gave you some guts.”
Xiao Yao stopped and looked around, this maze really was amazing, no wonder it could trap Feng Long and Xing Yue for an entire day.
Xiao Yao looked at Fang Feng Bei “How to get out?”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “This maze has many interesting areas, you don’t want to go check it out?”
Fang Feng Bei led Xiao Yao to the exit “Don’t regret it in the future.”
Xiao Yao coldly huffed.
Outside the maze lots of people were drinking and making merry.
Following the curving stream, some sat under the trees, other on rocks, some leaned against the railing, others were in conversation…..Maids placed drinks on a platter to flow downstream and people would grab it when it stopped and required to entertain. The zither was playing, poems were recited, and even magic tricks were being performed for entertainment.
Xiao Yao observed and laughed “That Xing Yue sure knows how to throw a party.”
The music stopped and the platter floated to where Xiao Yao and Fang Feng Bei were standing.
Xiao Yao shrunk behind Fang Feng Bei and whispered “Other than making poisons I don’t know how to do anything else.”
Fang Feng Bei smiled, picked up the wine and downed it, then lazily bowed to everyone “I’ll do some magic!”
Fang Feng Bei pointed to Xiao Yao “Go stand over there.”
With everyone’s eyes on her, Xiao Yao stiffly walked over.
Fang Feng Bei picked a white flower and waved the flower dew on Xiao Yao who made an annoyed face at him and whispered “If you dare toy with me, I’ll get you back for this!”
The moment she said that, the white flower dew spread like a dye on her robe and turned it from a yellow robe into a white one.
A girl laughed “Another color?”
Fang Feng Bei asked “What color?”
The girl picked a purple flower and sent it to Fang Feng Bei who ripped the petals and tossed the dew on Xiao Yao’s robe. The purple flower dew turned into a dye and gradually spread over the robe and turning it into a purple color.
Everyone was amused especially the girls who loved to be pretty so by now Xing Yue, Zhuan Xu, Feng Long, Jing, Hou, and Yi Yang were all standing by the river and clapping along.
Fang Feng Bei used a green flower to transform Xiao Yao’s robe into a green one. He could see Xiao Yao’s hand was clenched into a fist with her impatience so he turned to the audience with a smile “That’s it for today.”
Feng Long tossed a red flower over to Bei “Make one more, a red one!” All the outfits were beautiful on Xiao Yao but perhaps his first time seeing her was so impactful as she wore the red ceremonial dress but she didn’t seem to like red and never wore that color again after the ceremony.
Fang Feng Bei smiled “The birthday boy’s request” and made one more outfit as he splashed the red flower dew on Xiao Yao and her robe gradually changed into red.
Xiao Yao’s patience was at its end and she didn’t have any hint of a smile but forced herself to take a bow so she opened her arms and twirled once in a circle before curtsying to Feng Long, indicating the game was ended. She turned to leave.
A sharp loud scream cut through the air and a young girl had her hands clapped over her mouth as she stared with her face stark white at Xiao Yao. A young man sitting under the tree slowly stood up and glared balefully at Xiao Yao.
Back then, they were both so small, but that nightmare scenario they would never forget. That devil who destroyed their entire tribe also wore a red robe, and he also had eyes that didn’t seem to care about anything or anyone. Faced with the pleading of their fathers and brothers, he only coldly looked towards the distance.
Xiao Yao glanced at the girl who screamed and the girl lowered her head to avoid Xiao Yao’s stare but her body was shaking uncontrollably but it wasn’t visible since she was behind a flower stalk.
Xiao Yao and Fang Feng Bei returned to the guest rest chambers and Feng Long and Zhuan Xu walked in behind them.
Xing Yue and Yi Yang sidled up to Fang Feng Bei wheedled “Dear second brother, teach us your trick!”
Fang Feng Bei laughed and pointed to Xiao Yao “It’s temporary so of no use to learn.”
Xiao Yao’s red robe was gradually fading in color to reveal the original yellow robe. Xing Yue and Yi Yang sighed, it really was useless to learn this trick.
A maid brought in some snacks and Xiao Yao was hungry so grabbed some. Feng Long and Zhuan Xu sat down to play chess. Xing Yue stood beside Feng Long while Xiao Yao walked over to stand behind Zhuan Xu and watch while munching on snacks.
Yi Yang came over to watch as well and sat down next o Xing Yue. Jing limped over to sit next to Yi Yang and was next to Xiao Yao.
Yi Yang glanced at Jing and her eyes flashed complete and utterly loathing, disappearing in a split second. No one noticed other than Xiao Yao, and in that second she felt worse than if she was the one being despised.
Yi Yang appeared to be repulsed by even sitting next to Jing so she stood up and went to grab wine. She leaned on the pallet and started chatting with Fang Feng Bei and Hou.
Xiao Yao handed her plate of snacks to Jing and said with a smile “It’s very delicious.”
Jing didn’t know why Xiao Yao was suddenly so nice to him but he was genuinely happy and accepted it with a smile.
Xiao Yao suddenly felt very uncomfortable like a poisonous snake was staring at her. She lifted her head and saw a young man staring at her. The moment he noticed her looking, he smiled and nodded his head before walking away.
Xiao Yao asked “Who was that just staring at me?”
A young man staring at a beautiful young woman was nothing strange so everyone laughed and Xing Yue said “That is one of my Mu family cousins. The Mu family was once a very prominent family but due to a dispute with Qi Yo, he destroyed the entire tribe and the only one to survive was him.”
Feng Long added “The entire families Qi Yo wiped out wasn’t just the Mu family, plenty of families in the Middle Plains hate Qi Yo. Even though Qi Yo was a Great General of the Sheng Nong Kingdom, his death was celebrated by almost every tribe in the Middle Plains.”
Xing Yue said “No wonder so many hate him, Qi Yo that big devil killed too many people!”
Fang Feng Bei suddenly interrupted “The entire world can curse and hate Qi Yo, but no member of the Sheng Nong family can ever berate him.”
Xing Yue was very unhappy to be chastised and glared at Bei who just leaned back lazily on the pallet and calmly said “If you don’t believe me, go ask your dad.”
It wasn’t a big deal but Xing Yue was angry because she felt like she was embarrassed in front of Zhuan Xu so she picked a fight “Miss Fang Feng, you ought to manage your brother better, he needs to watch his place before speaking out of turn.”
Yi Yang was furious Xing Yue was looking down on the Fang Feng family so even if the smile was plastered on her face she nailed one back “I’ve been living in Qing Qiu for the last ten years and helping my grandmother, who has time to deal with the Fang Feng family affairs. If you care so much, you deal with it!”
Xing Yue was so angry she snit back “You haven’t even married into the family yet, stop talking like you are already the wife of the Tu Shan clan leader. Even if you…..”
“Xing Yue!” Jing softly but firmly cut her off.
Xiao Yao quickly handed snacks to Xing Yue “This is so sweet, try it.”
Xing Yue was still pissed so didn’t accept it.
Zhuan Xu said to her “Try it and if it’s good then get me and Feng Long some.” Xing Yue’s pissy face went away and she took the snacks before heading out with the maids to get more.
Feng Long stood up and bowed to Yi Yang in apology “Please don’t take it seriously, Xing Yue has been spoiled by our mother.”
Yi Yang was so pissed, there wasn’t anything she was not as good as Xing Yue at. But because Xing Yue’s last name as Sheng Nong, she had to constantly endure her. Even Feng Long’s apology wasn’t meant for her, it was really meant for Jing. What was so good about Tu Shan Jing? He was just a weak cripple! Other than he was the future clan leader so everyone respected him. It all came down to position!
Yi Yang softly murmured “It’s not Xing Yue’s fault, I was out of line.”
Feng Long could see Yi Yang was still angry so he bowed again.
He was the future Chi Sui clan leader and he was already doing so much so Yi Yang stood up and bowed back “She and I are like sisters, so it’s just some words and that’s normal. Even if I’m petty this isn’t anything to keep in mind.”
When Xing Yue returned with more snacks, she and Yi Yang were back talking like nothing had happened.
Feng Long and Zhuan Xu’s chess match went on until dinnertime.
Zhuan Xu pulled Xiao Yao aside to whisper “I need to discuss something with Feng Long in a bit so you stay with Xing Yue and don’t run around. When I’m done I’ll send someone to get you.”
Xiao Yao nodded and stuck by Xing Yue’s side. When they were done with dinner, Zhuan Xu was finished with his business. Xing Yue walked them out to the cloud carriage and bid them farewell.