I think it ironic that in Lost You Forever Xiao Yao has three amazing leading man in her life but really none of the three comes equipped with everything she wants in her life. At most we can say one has more than the others, or really it comes down to what she prioritizes first. Xiao Yao keeps saying that she want a simple life to grow old with someone. But from the feisty Xiao Yao we know, that isn’t really her. She longs for adventure deep down inside, she’s just too scared to reach for it. So right now you can say she’s stealing time with all her guys even if she’s mentally decided on Jing. I can’t say the way she’s heartbroken over Xiang Liu and thinking about him bodes well for her being a one-man woman later on with Jing, plus Xiang Liu stuck her in a clam shell for thirty-seven years which if you ask me fairly screams “I love you” even if he says otherwise. I love her loyalty to Jing, though, because it’s the very thing she felt was lacking in her parental figures hence she’s never going to be the first to let go. The ball is in Jing’s court but he’s kindness really is at odds with his end goal of giving everything up to be with Xiao Yao. He could use a little more of Zhuan Xu’s ruthlessness and a bit of Xiang Liu’s coldness, otherwise he’s really drifting farther and farther from his dream life. I’m glad everyone that matter is alive or awake and the story gets back to business with lots of action that might make one ship despondent while giving hope to another ship.
Chapter 23 – Familial Strife Demands No Rush:
Jing returned to Qing Qiu around midnight but ordered the servants not to alert the Grand Madam and he’ll go see her when she rose in the morning.
Jing was concerned about Feng Long and Zhuan Xu’s situation so didn’t even bother to rest and instead met with his trusted subordinates to get a summary of what happened the last thirty some years. By the time the discussion finished it was already deep into the night.
He slept for two hours and washed up before heading to see his grandmother.
The Grand Madam was in her room sitting on a pallet, with Hou, Hou’s wife Lan Mu, and Fang Fang Yi Yang flanking her on either side.
Jing saw her and rushed over to kneel before her “Grandmother, I’m home.”
There were tears in the Grand Madam’s eyes and she gestured for him to rise “You’re finally back, I thought I would be able to last until I saw you.”
Jing saw that she looked healthy and energetic, with her color high and said “Grandmother you look well! How can you not be around to see your grandson?”
The Grand Madam pulled Jing to sit beside her “You’re too thin! You need to recuperate for some time and not let me worry when I look at you!”
Jing smiled “Your grandson will eat a lot and fatten myself until grandmother approves.”
The Grand Madam smiled and nodded her head.
Jing greeted his brother and sister-in-law and the Grand Madam pointed to Yi Yang “You need to thank Yi Yang, she’s been so busy on your behalf all these years.”
Jing politely bowed to Yi Yang but said nothing. After he straightened himself he turned to his grandmother “I have something to say to grandmother.”
The Grand Madam replied “I also have something I want to say to you.” She glanced at Hou and them “You all leave us, I want to chat with Jing a bit.”
Everyone bowed and left the room.
Jing knelt down “I want to quickly end my engagement with Yi Yang. Please will grandmother permit it.”
The Grand Madam was not surprised “I knew you would say this. I also know what I will say back: Impossible!”
Jing begged “I have no feelings towards Yi Yang and she feels the same towards me. Why won’t grandmother let us end the engagement?”
“I can see you don’t have feelings for her, but I can’t see that she doesn’t have feelings for you!”
Jing raised his head “I already love another, please will grandmother permit!”
The Grand Madam sighed “Silly child, you long do you think feelings will last. Day after day, the endless time together, all feelings will be smoothed out until all that remains is lightness. Actually, a married couple is more like a business partnership, you give her what she needs, she gives you what you need, you respect her one step, she respects you one step. Back and forth, like flowing water lasting for a long time.”
“Grandmother, I will not marry Yi Yang!”
“If you are Hou then you can do whatever you want and I don’t care! But you are the future Tu Shan clan leader, and the leader determines the rise and fall of the entire clan! Yi Yang is smart and careful, plus the Fang Feng clan relies on the Tu Shan clan which further limits her options. Trust grandmother’s judgement, she is the best choice for the leader’s wife! For the Tu Shan clan, you must marry her!”
Jing said “I don’t want to be the clan leader, let older brother be the clan leader!”
“You wretch!” The Grand Madam slapped the table and all the plates and cups shattered on the floor and the tea splashed Jing. The Grand Madam touched her heart “Sixty years! I spent sixty years training the best clan leader wife, I don’t have another sixty years left!”
Jing kept bowing his head even as his forehead slammed into the broken shards on the ground and jabbed into his flesh “If grandmother doesn’t agree to end the engagement, then I can only leave the Tu Shan clan.”
The Grand Madam’s body shook and she pointed at Jing “If you want me to die, then leave! You might as well strangle me now. If I die then you can do whatever you want and no one will care.”
Jing kept bowing and begging “Grandmother!”
The Grand Madam called her maid “Xiao Yu, tell this wretch to scram!”
Xiao Yu walked in “Please will young master not distress the Grand Madam and allow her to rest!”
Jing saw her clutching her chest and her face had turned purple so he immediately left.
But he didn’t leave and only knelt down in the courtyard. The maid reported it to the Grand Madam but she kept her eyes closed “Ignore him! Call all the clan elders here!”
Jing knelt outside her room for a day and a night but the Grand Madam ignored him and continued to arrange matters with the clan elders.
After everything was arranged, she had servants bring everyone back. Jing was just recovered from a long illness and had knelt for so long that his face was pale white and his forehead bloody and bruised, looking very ragged. Hou and Yi Yang saw him like that and the hatred in their eyes flitted past.
Yi Yang walked into the room and saw the Grand Madam and immediately knelt down in tears to beg forgiveness for Jing.
The Grand Madam saw everyone has arrived so said to Xiao Yu “Call that wretch inside”
Jing was helped inside the room by a servant. Yi Yang rushed over to help tend to him but he kept his distance “No need to bother the miss!”
Yi Yang restrained her tears and reluctantly stood to the side and shot very pitiful looks at the Grand Madam.
The Grand Madam said nothing and watched Xiao Yu patch up the cuts on Jing’s forehead.
She then had both grandsons sit and glanced across their faces “Everything is set. In three days time there will be a ceremony to officially announce Jing as the next Tu Shan clan leader. This is a rushed affair so there won’t be a lot of guests, but the Yellow Emperor, the Grand Emperor, the other clans Chi Sui, Xi Long, Gui Fang, and the Middle Plains Six Big Families, will all send representatives here. That will be enough.”
Jing and Hou were shocked that the Grand Madam would quietly arrange everything, even inviting the guests.
Jing knelt down “Grandmother, the clan leader matter can wait a few years.”
The Grand Madam raged “A few years? How many years do you think I have left? Your grandfather died shortly after your father was born and I had to steel myself and run the entire clan. I finally lasted until your father married and became the clan leader and thought I could take a break….but that wretch actually left before me! I almost collapsed that time but thank goodness your mom stepped up to manage the clan. Us two widows raised the pair of you but your mom didn’t get to enjoy any happiness before leaving to join that wretch. I pray day and night that you will take over as clan leader, but then you disappeared for years! I got you back after ten years and before I could even let out a sigh of relief, you went unconscious and wouldn’t wake up. How much longer do I have left for you to torment?”
The Grand Madam spoke and a lifetime of pain and hard work rose up and the normally stalwart her began to cry.
Hou, Lan Mu, and Yi Yang all knelt down before her and the Grand Madam wiped her tears “I don’t care what you guys think, this time Tu Shan Jing is going to become the clan leader regardless of whether you want to or not.”
Jing continued to bow his head on the ground and begged “Grandmother, I really don’t want to be clan leader! Older brother is the elder, why can’t he become the clan leader?”
The Grand Madam shouted “Wretch! You know the answer and yet you still ask? Some things can be concealed to the world but can’t be concealed from those who are close. Your maternal grandfather was the last leader of the Tan family, and the current leader is your uncle. Your maternal grandmother was the eldest daughter of the Chi Sui clan, the current cousin of the clan leader. Hou…..will they accept him as clean leader?”
The Grand Madam clutched her heart and cried “Wretch, tell me! Will the Chi Sui, Xi Ling, and the Middle Plains Six Big Families all agree with you not being the clan leader?”
Jing pleaded “I can go beg them one by one.”
The Grand Madam cried “You think I don’t know all the things you’ve done behind my back all these years. The clan elders only accept you, they won’t allow you not to be the clan leader.”
Jing could only keep pleading and bowing his head “Grandmother, I really don’t want to be clan leader, older brother wants to be clan leader!”
The Grand Madam looked at her two kneeling grandsons “The clan leader has to lead from within and influence the world beyond, that is a true clan leader. Not everyone can be the clan leader just because of desire!”
“Hou, come here!” The Grand Madam reached out her hand and Hou kneeled over to her side.
She raised him up to sit beside her “Hou, I know you are not one bit less capable than Jing. But the clan leader determines the rise and fall of an entire clan. If you become clan leader, the nine clan elders won’t accept you and the Tu Shan clan will splinter from within. Then you won’t get support from outside the clan either, the Chi Sui and Tan families will make it difficult for you. A clan’s fall in one generations means suffering for many generations to come. The fall of a clan could be in one decision.”
The Grand Madam embraced Hou and cried “When your father was dying, his last words were for me to take care of you. All these years, have I treated you one whit less?”
Hou answered “Grandmother has always treated me well, not one whit preferential or lacking.” That is why all those years he had chances to forcibly take the clan leader role and he never could get up the hard heart to kill the grandmother who loved him since birth, which is how things have stagnated until now.
The Grand Madam stroked Hou’s head “When your dad died, the only thing he couldn’t leave behind was you. No matter how much you hate your mother, she didn’t kill you and instead raised you to adulthood and found you the best masters to teach you all the skills you have now. You have the Tu Shan clan blood in you, how can you watch the clan fall and let me die in worry?”
Hou was devastated and knelt down and bowed his head hard “Grandmother please be well.” But he never said that he wouldn’t vy for the clan leader position.
Jing also bowed his head hard “Please cancel the clan leader ceremony three days from now. I don’t want to be clan leader.” Still he refused to accept the clan leader role.
The Grand Madam stared at her grandsons, her heartbreak, rage, and despair all rushed to her heart and suddenly all her blood burst forth and she spit out blood that splattered on Jing and Hou.
Both Jing and Hou jumped up and went to assist her but her face was ashen and she was barely breathing. Jing wanted to transfer power to her but Hou violently pushed his hand away “I’ll do it!”
Jing knew Hou’s powers were stronger so didn’t fight him and instead pressed down on his grandmother’s pressure point to help her spirit move in her body.
Yi Yang and Lan Mu called out “Doctor, doctor!”
The Grand Madam’s personal doctor a lady by the name of Se Mai Er rushed in and saw the blood on Jing and Hou’s body and her face changed. She fed the Grand Madam a large pill and the Grand Madam gradually stabilized.
Jing and Hou were both relieved and Hou said “Grandmother, please cancel the ceremony in three days! Your health is most important.”
Jing added “Yes, please get better soon.”
The Grand Madam smiled bitterly “I won’t hide it from you two anymore, I have at most a year left to live.”
Jing and Hou were in disbelief and both looked at the doctor.
Se Mai Er said “The Grand Madam is correct, at most one year.”
Hou was agitated and yelled “No, no! Grandmother has been so healthy these past tens of years, there must be a way to treat her.”
The Grand Madam wearily said “When Jing was unconscious, I figured you would likely itch to do something. As a widow I could manage the entire Tu Shan clan which shows that I’m not someone who is easy to deal with. If you weren’t my grandson I would have gotten rid of you already. But you are my grandson that I held in my arms, and because Jing’s mother preferred him, I was extra good to you. You are the piece of flesh on my heart and I cannot bear to cut you off. But I can’t rid you of your ambition so I can only get up all my remaining strength to keep this family legacy secure. To have the energy to deal with you youngsters, I had Se Mai Er plant a voodoo bug in me. You see all my boundless energy these past tens of years? It was all due to the voodoo bug sustaining me.”
Both Jing and Hou’s face changed. Jing had researched a lot about voodoo bugs these years because of Xiao Yao and he murmured “But that’s a prohibited magic.”
Hou asked “Is there is way to break it?”
Se Mai Er replied “The voodoo bug has backfired today, there is no way left.”
Hou anxiously asked “Backfired? What does backfired mean?”
Se Mai Er explained “The prohibited magic of voodoo is that it allows a person to accomplish their greatest desire, but conversely before death the person will endure the greatest pain of the voodoo bug collecting on it’s equal payment. A person will endure the pain of the bug eating all the insides until the body, soul, and essence is all consumed by the bug. In the end, there is nothing remaining, not even a corpse.”
Jing stared at his grandmother and tears came, and Hou was also in tears “Grandmother, grandmother, how….how could you?”
The Grand Madam laughed “How could I? Because of you two wretches! Even if I endure the most horrific pain and have no corpse left, if I can protect the Tu Shan clan then after I die I will have done my duty to our ancestors and not be ashamed before them……” The Grand Madam suddenly stopped talking and she curled up in pain. Jing and Hou rushed over to help her.
The Grand Madam said “Out, tell them all…..to get out!”
Se Mai Er said to Jing and Hou “The Grand Madam is so strong in her life, she doesn’t want anyone to see her like this…..if you both respect your elder then please leave now!”
Jing and Hou stared at their grandmother curled up in pain and looked at each other before leaving the room along with Lan Mu and Yi Yang.
“Ahhhhh……Ahhhhhh…….” The screams of agony came like waves from inside the room.
Jing and Hou glared at each other in rage but when they heard their grandmother scream in agony, both closed their eyes in pain. Because of them, their most loved one must endure the agony of a voodoo bug consuming her insides.
The Grand Madam’s maid Xiao Yu walked out “Two young masters, please leave now! The Grand Madam must endure the agony an hour a day now but most of the time she’ll be lucid. In time the pain will grow longer and her mental acuity will leave her. She said earlier that she has at most a year left, but really it’s half a year only.”
Xiao Yu started crying “For hundreds of years I’ve taken care of the Grand Madam and seen what she has done for the Tu Shan clan, what she has done for you both. If both of you even have a shred of filial piety left in you, then please accept the Grand Madam’s wishes for the sake of the Tu Shan clan. When she is lucid let her see the new clan leader emerge so that she can die in peace, so that this pain is worth it.”
Xiao Yu finished and gestured for them to leave.
Hou turned and rushed out, with a long whistle he vaulted on his winged ride and was gone into the air though the sound of his angry howling scream floated down.
Jing said nothing and walked out slowly, step by step until he left the residence and arrived at the base of Qing Qiu Mountain.
His winged ride Li Li came down and nuzzled his arm as if wanting to take him someone. Jing stared at Li Li but didn’t know where to go. He thought he could leave Qing Qiu and wander the world just the two of them. But the truth was that he could never leave Qing Qiu.
Jing turned back towards Qing Qiu Mountain.
The Tu Shan clan residence was built on the side of Qing Qiu Mountain, from the dawn of time until now, tens of generations of Tu Shan clan leaders have built and expanded on it. There were tens of courtyards and when the waning sun shone down on it, it illuminated all the bricks and trees that made the entire residence glow with life.
He was willing to give up everything, but he could not give up his bloodline.
The sky turned dark but Jing still stood at the base of the mountain.
The sound of thunder reached him and then came the pouring rain. It startled Jing awake and he said to Li Li “To Sheng Nong Mountain!”
Xiao Yao was already asleep when she was awakened by the thunder in the middle of the night.
The sound of the pouring rain striking the roof tops was an unending battering noise.
Xiao Yao listened for a bit and was about to go back to sleep when she suddenly heard a crane call out. She put on her robe and opened the door. It was pitch black out and the wind and rain was howling.
Xiao Yao looked around and then saw two figures walking towards her in the darkness.
Xiao Yao incredulously asked “Jing? Is that you?”
The figures came close and one was Xiao Xiao and the other really was Jing. He was soaked through as if just fished out of the water, his hair crown long gone and his hair a mess plastered all over his ashen face.
Xiao Xiao said “The guards said someone was barging into Zhi Jin Palace but when I arrived and saw it was Master Jing, he already looked like this. His highness had me bring him to see the Princess.”
Xiao Xiao finished and left quietly.
“Jing, you….come inside first!” Xiao Yao didn’t care to ask why Jing barged into Sheng Nong Mountain in the middle of the night, pulling him into her room.
Xiao Yao placed him beside the brazier and helped dry his hair. She saw his forehead was cut and bruised and she touched it “What happened?”
Jing grabbed Xiao Yao suddenly in a tight embrace, his body cold after being in the rain for so long. Xiao Yao silently let him hold her.
After some time Jing said “Grandmother used a prohibited voodoo bug spell, the voodoo bug has backfired and is consuming her insides.”
When the voodoo bug backfires, there is not much time left to live. Xiao Yao was stunned and didn’t know how to comfort Jing so could only stroke his back.
Jing said “Grandmother wants me to assume the clan leader position in three days time. I can’t say no anymore.”
Xiao Yao said “I understand.”
“I had decided that regardless of whether Grandmother agreed or not, I was going to be with you….but now….I’m sorry!”
“It’s okay, it’s really okay!”
Xiao Yao sighed. It wasn’t that she didn’t care but if Jing’s grandmother was willing to give up her life and Jing selfishly choose to leave the Tu Shan clan to be with her, then he wouldn’t be the Jing that Xiao Yao liked.
That night Jing didn’t go back to Qing Qiu.
That night, Hou also didn’t go back to Qing Qiu. Lan Mu was long used to it and never dared speak a word about it. That night she turned into a fox and snuck to check on Fang Feng Yi Yang and saw that she was also missing. In sixty years, it wasn’t the first time she discovered both Hou and Yi Yang gone at the same time. Lan Mu hid under the blankets and cried all night, not because of Hou not coming home all night, but because she discovered something she shouldn’t know and she was absolutely terrified.
The second day past noon, Jing and Hou both returned to Qing Qiu.
The Grand Madam summoned both and she sat on a pallet looking rather healthy and not like someone near death.
She asked Jing “Did you decide?”
Jing knelt down “Your grandson agrees to assume the clan leader position.”
She smiled and turned to Hou “Did you decide?”
Hou knelt down “Your grandson will never vie for the clan leader position.”
The Grand Madam stared at Hou “Are you willing to make a blood swear in front of all your ancestors that you will never vie for the clan leader position and never harm Jing?”
Hou paused and then said “I am willing!”
The Grand Madam let out a sigh of relief and broke into a smile before brushing away her tears “I didn’t waste all my love on you both.”
Hou and Jing both bowed their heads and said simultaneously “Your grandson has caused you to suffer!”
The Grand Madam said “The elders will handle the ceremony preparation, tomorrow Hou will go to the ancestral shrine to swear a blood vow.”
Hou bowed “Yes.”
The Grand Madam had them both get up and grabbed each by the hand and looked at them both and sighing “Even if I die, I’m dying happy!”
Jing looked at Hou, since he returned to the Tu Shan clan he’s used all sorts of methods to try and resolve their dispute but Hou never accepted. Could Hou really put down his anger and ambition for their grandmother?
After leaving their grandmother’s room, Hou was walking away quickly when Jing called out “Older brother!”
Hou stopped and Jing asked “Are you really willing?”
Hou laughed coldly “You’re giving up the freedom you want for her, why can’t I give up some ambition for her?”
For a second Jing didn’t know what to feel and said “I know you have always known I don’t want to be clan leader. Why didn’t you work with me tens of years ago. I told you then I didn’t want to be clan leader, and I didn’t hate you. If you worked with me, you could have been clan leader a long time ago.”
Hou laughed in derision “I can fight for what I want, I don’t need the high and mighty Master Jing to toss me a bone! Why don’t you seek revenge on me? Did you forgive me? Does it make you feel like you’re better than me? Are you sitting up high looking down in pity at someone all consumed by envy and anger like me?”
Hou walked right up to Jing and Jing backed up and had nothing to say in response.
Hou grabbed Jing’s shoulder in such strength it could shatter Jing “Why don’t you seek revenge? I would rather you sought revenge over looking at you being so fake and pathetically noble. Why don’t you hate me! Seeing all the hideous scars on your body, seeing your ugly crippled leg, even your woman can’t stand you and doesn’t want you. Don’t you hate me even a little? Come get your revenge, get your revenge!…..”
Jing grabbed Hou’s hand “Older brother, I really don’t hate you!”
Hou pushed Jing off “For Grandmother, we ought to each do what is required of us. There is no need to pretend to be close brothers. Everyone knows I’m the lowly born son of a maid, I can’t compare to the perfect high born you.”
Jing rubbed his aching shoulders and watched Hou storm off. He realized this was it, he could never return to the happy close brothers of the past. Perhaps their grandmother’s sacrifice today was in exchange for each brother assuming their position and not killing each other, and that was the best result that could be hoped for.
Two days later, the Tu Shan clan held a not very spectacular but still very solemn clan leader initiation ceremony.
The Yellow Emperor, the Grand Emperor, the Middle Plains Six Big Families, everyone sent representatives to attend. The Grand Emperor send his Eldest Princess and Ru So as his envoys and Xiao Yao secretly thanked her dad for giving her a legitimate reason to be at Qing Qiu and witness the most important ceremony in Jing’s life.
Perhaps because all nine-tailed foxes are white so the Tu Shan clan preferred white, the altar was decked out in white and below the altar were jade beams carved in various displays of nine-tailed foxes.
Jing wore the most formal attire and first prayed to the Heavens and the ancestors, before thanking the Grand Madam, and finally ascending to the altar to accept from the clan elder the nine-tailed fox jade emblem which represented all the Tu Shan clan wealth and power. The two elders placed a white nine-tailed fox lined coat around Jing which represented the king of the foxes and the Tu Shan clan being the ruler of the entire fox kingdom.
The ceremonial horns sounded and the elders announced the completion of the ceremony.
Jing turned and walked to the edge of the altar to look down on all the Tu Shan clan members sitting below.
Behind him a huge white spectral nine-tailed fox suddenly appeared, with nine fluffy tails that danced like dragons in the sky, covering almost the entire air above them in a display of the power and magic of the nine-tailed fox tribe.
Such glorious omen did not always appear in every clan leader initiation ceremony so all the clan members kneeled to the ground in supplication and bowed to Jing. Even the Grand Madam kneeled with tears in her eyes and murmured “May the ancestors continue to watch over the clan in future generations.”
In the repeated bows and prayers of the Tu Shan clan members, the Jing standing on the white altar seemed so far away.
Xiao Yao felt rather dazed, from this moment on Jing carried the fate of his entire clan on his back! He, was no longer her Ye Shi Qi.
When the banquet began, Xiao Yao started drinking and used the excuse of a headache and tossed all the duties to Ru So and snuck away. She followed the mountain path down the hill.
The secluded mountain path was windy and uneven, rising and dipping in places, and there was no end in sight. It was just like life.
Xiao Yao smiled – she hated loneliness and never liked walking alone, but life was naturally the journey of an individual and perhaps she was destined to walk her road by herself.
The sound of footsteps reached her and Xiao Yao turned around and saw Fang Feng Bei.
In a split second her heart soared and beat wildly. She had the urge to run away but forced herself to calm down and casually asked “I didn’t see you at the ceremony.”
Fang Feng Bei smirked “Back there you had only eyes for Tu Shan Jing, who else could you see?”
His tone of voice was Fang Feng Bei so Xiao Yao relaxed and awkwardly explained “Coming to the ceremony, other than looking at Tu Shan Jing, it’s not like I should be looking around.”
The two walked side-by-side along the mountain path, the crunching sound of leaves being stepped on illuminated the expanse of the mountain air.
Fang Feng Bei said “Little sister said Jing didn’t want to be clan leader, and to cancel their engagement he knelt for a day and night in front of the Grand Madam’s room. If he really didn’t want to be clan leader, knowing little sister’s personality, she would have found a way to cancel their engagement herself. But now that Jing is clan leader, little sister’s years of hard work is finally right at her fingertips. She won’t give up now.”
Bei looked at Xiao Yao “Seeing hope so close but evaporated into the air, are you upset?”
Xiao Yao replied “Of course I’m a little upset, but perhaps I’ve been disappointed and always getting the short end of the stick since childhood, no matter what good things are promised me, I instinctively expect it to be crushed. No matter how poignant the promise is, I never fully believe in it. So I’m not that upset.” Having her own mother abandon her for the greater good of the world, what other love in this world could be fully trusted.
Fang Feng Bei softly chuckled “Your personality isn’t all that, no matter how happy you always brace for the pain to come.”
Xiao Yao laughed “That is why I treasure the happiness right before me, because that is the only thing that is real.”
Fang Feng Bei stopped and asked with a smile “Princess, want to go find happiness?”
Fang Feng Bei put his fingers in his mouth and whistled and a winged horse came. He vaulted on its back and reached out his hand to pull Xiao Yao on the back of the horse in front of him.
Fang Feng Bei rode the horse to Qing Qiu Castle and took Xiao Yao to the underground gambling den run by the Li Jie tribe.
Xiao Yao accepted the dog mask and marveled “Can’t imagine the doggie tribe is running their business right under the Tu Shan clan noses.”
Fang Feng Bei smacked her upside the head “Even if you’re not scared of offending the Li Jie tribe, I sure am.”
Xiao Yao put on her mask and changed into a dog faced female body, she made a doggie gesture towards Bei and barked twice.
Bei wearily shook his head and quickly walked inside “Stay away from me! I don’t want to get beaten up as well when you get walloped!”
Xiao Yao giggled and ran up to him and grabbed his arm “I purposely want to stay close to you!” As she said that she barked a few times for good measure.
Fang Feng Bei used his finger to pinch her “doggie mouth” shut and begged “Little lady princess, stop causing a scene!”
Fang Feng Bei was an old hand and took Xiao Yao to gamble at the tables. Xiao Yao always felt gambling and hard drinking was good stuff, able to numb a person’s heart so that no matter how unpleasant life was, a few cups of strong alcohol and the gambling table and everything was temporarily forgotten.
Fang Feng Bei made a six gesture and the serving girl brought out six cups of hard alcohol. Fang Feng Bei raised a cup and Xiao Yao raised a cup and the two of them said nothing and each downed three cups of hard alcohol.
Xiao Yao laughed and swanned off to the tables to place her bet and Fang Feng Bei went off to find his kicks.
Xiao Yao gambled and drank and after winning a small pouch of money, Fang Feng Bei came back “Want to go watch the slave death matches?”
Xiao Yao wouldn’t get up “Why do you men like watching so much slicing and dicing and killing? What’s so interesting about watching blood fly?”
Fang Feng Bei jerked her up “You’ll see when you get there. I guarantee you won’t regret it.”
In the slave death match arena, Xiao Yao drank and casually glanced around.
Two slaves about to fight a match walked out and Xiao Yao sat up straight the moment she saw one of them. It was the slave she met years ago in Xuan Yuan Castle. She and Bei once bet on him. The way she remembered it felt like just a few years ago, but to that slave, it was over forty years ago and he had to fight every single day in a death match to survive.
Xiao Yao murmured “He’s still alive?”
Even though he was pale and skinny and missing his left ear, but he was still alive.
Bei crooked his long legs and put his hands behind his head and leaned back “Forty years ago he made a deal with his slave owner. If he helped his owner win for forty straight years, then the owner would grant him his freedom. Tonight if he wins, he gets his freedom.”
“How did he do that?”
“Endless enduring and patience, for a sliver of hope he never gave up on. Actually, it was the same thing you did when you were trapped in the cage by the nine-tailed fox.”
Xiao Yao said nothing and gulped her cup of wine down. She then tossed her money to place a bet and pointed to the slave she knew “I bet on him winning.”
Chatter rose around her in disbelief because she placed her bet on a slave that was physically much weaker than his opponent.
The fight began.
That slave really was so weak! Likely because he was about to gain his freedom, his owner saw him as a losing proposition so never spent money to heal his recent injuries.
Soon his injuries began to bleed but his opponent remained as strong as a lion.
The wine bottle was right next to Xiao Yao but she never drank and instead focused all her attention on the match.
The slave fell in a puddle of blood time and time again, but time and time again he got back up.
In the beginning the entire arena was loud with roars and cheers because spectators liked watching bloody theater. But in the end, seeing a completely bloodied person keep getting up, everyone lost their voice and could no longer cheer.
In the long silence, everyone quietly watched a skinny weak slave battle a strong healthy slave.
In the end, the strong healthy slave laid in a puddle of blood and could not get back up, but the skinny weak slave also laid in a puddle of blood and could not get back up.
Both slaves laid on the ground so this match did not have a winner.
Everyone sighed and got up to leave but Xiao Yao suddenly stood up and yelled loudly towards the match ring “Get up, you get up!”
Everyone stopped and stared at her in shock. Xiao Yao yelled again “You’ve lasted for forty years and you have just one more step to go. Get up! Get up! Get up!…..”
The skinny weak slave actually moved but still couldn’t get up. Everyone got excited and stared at him. Xiao Yao loudly called out “Get up, get up, get up! If you get up then you’ve earned your freedom! Get up, get up!”
Xiao Yao didn’t know why but her heart which has been cold for hundreds of years suddenly felt burning hot, she didn’t want him to give up, she wanted him to be strong. Even if living didn’t bring happiness, but she still wanted him to stand up. She wanted him to get the ending he endured for, she wanted him to live another kind of life afterwards. Even if he didn’t like it, at least he lived to see it!
Some other folks also knew about the slave’s deal with his owner so in the chatter in the arena, soon the entire arena knew he had endured for forty years and this was his final step towards freedom.
Xiao Yao yelled “Get up, you get up!”
Everyone joined with Xiao Yao to loudly yell “Get up, get up, get back up!”
Sometimes people could be so dark and cold, but then other times people could be warm and caring. In this moment everyone chose the light and they all hoped for this slave to stand up, to accomplish a near miracle.
Everyone hollered “Get up, get up, you get up!”
The skinny weak slave staggered and pushed himself up. Even as he stood there covered in blood and filth and was unsteady, but he stood up, he won!
Almost everyone lost money on the match but everyone was happy and celebrating. The slave’s victory was unrelated to them but this moment of goodness in life let them forget their own disappointments and could be happy for the slave just like they had personally also conquered over life’s unbeatable obstacles.
Xiao Yao laughed out loud in joy and turned around and hugged Bei and excitedly exclaimed “Did you see that? He won, he’s free!”
Bei stared at the slave staggering forward and smiled “Yes, he won!”
Xiao Yao saw the slave owner take the slave to meet the gambling den owner to remove the slave’s badge of slavery.
Xiao Yao silently sat down and watched everyone excitedly discussing what just happened as they dispersed, until gradually the entire arena was just her and Bei left.
Xiao Yao stared at the empty match ring and asked “Why did you bring me to watch the match?”
Bei lazily drawled “To find amusement, what else could it be for?”
Xiao Yao was silent and a moment later said “Let’s go back!”
Xiao Yao and Bei put back on their dog masks and left the gambling den.
A person staggered out behind them wearing cheap rucksack cloth and was cleaned up haphazardly so the blood was wiped off and his hair was pulled back into a bun. If he wasn’t missing a left ear, he would look just like any skinny weak young man.
He stuttered at Xiao Yao “Just then, I heard your voice and I remembered your voice. You hugged me once.”
Xiao Yao was delighted “I remember you, too. I’m so happy you won!” She pointed at Fang Feng Bei “Do you remember him?”
Fang Feng Bei didn’t turn around and in the dark night only his tall figure was visible. But the young man only saw him in the slave death match arena as wearing a dog mask so he didn’t need to see Bei’s face to recognize him.
The young man nodded “I remember! I remember his aura, he came to see me fight to the death. A total of seven times!” The young man suddenly eagerly said to Fang Feng Bei “I’m free and willing to do anything. Can I follow you?”
Fang Feng Bei coldly replied “I don’t need anyone.”
The young man was disappointed but not despairing. He said to Fang Feng Bei and Xiao Yao “Thank you both.”
He turned to leave and Xiao Yao called out “Do you have money?”
The young man’s face was confused likely unclear what money was. Xiao Yao handed him the pouch of money she just won “This is my winnings from betting on you. Take it because it’s not charity.”
The young man looked down at the cold hard thing in his hand and Xiao Yao asked “What is your name? What are you going to do now?”
The young man lifted his head and earnestly replied “They call me Slave Eleven. I want to see the sea, they all say the sea is so vast.”
Xiao Yao nodded “Yes, the sea is very vast and very beautiful. You should go see it. Uhm….can I give you a name?”
The young man looked at her for a long time and then solemnly nodded his head.
Xiao Yao thought and then said “You’re missing a left ear, so how about calling you Left Ear? You have to remember that in the future when people laugh at you for missing an ear, you don’t have to mind because you should be proud that you are missing a left ear.”
“Left Ear?” The young man repeated it a few times and says “My name is Left Ear!”
Xiao Yao nodded “If you see the view enough or people are mean to you, then you go to Sheng Nong Mountain and find someone named Zhuan Xu, tell him that I recommended you and he’ll find you a job. My name is Xiao Yao, got it?”
“Sheng Nong Mountain, Zhuan Xu, Xiao Yao…..Left Ear got it.”
Left Ear held the pouch of money Xiao Yao gave him and staggered into the night.
Xiao Yao watched his departing figure and suddenly thought about five or six hundred years ago when Xiang Liu escaped the slave death match arena. He ought to have been a young man just like him, but already so world-weary and beaten down, so broken and battered. But like a newborn baby, whatever and whomever he encountered would direct the course of his life going forward.
But….she wasn’t even born yet back then!
Bei interrupted her thoughts “He’s long gone, snap out of it! Let’s go!”
Xiao Yao walked and talked “I was thinking that when you escaped the slave death match arena, wouldn’t it have been great if I was the one who saved you! If that was the case, then I would let you only be Fang Feng Bei! I really hate that I wasn’t born a few hundred years earlier. I would definitely find you in the slave death match arena…….”
Bei stopped and stared at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao turned and stared at him, their eyes meeting in the darkness, wanting to say more but not.
Bei reached out his hand as if to caress Xiao Yao’s cheek but the moment he touched her, he jerked his hand back. He glanced behind Xiao Yao and then smirked “Based on you right now wanting to save me? Are you worthy?”
Xiao Yao tried to explain “I’m not saying General Gong Gong isn’t a good guy, I just think, I just feel…..”
“Be quiet!” In that instant Bei appeared to don a full armor, wrapping himself tightly in a deadly aura.
Xiao Yao stared warily at Xiang Liu and then slowly backed up.
She backed into a familiar embrace “Jing?”
“Yes.” Jing held Xiao Yao and stared at Bei, his eyes full of warning.
Bei’s dangerous aura vanished and he laughed “I heard you wanted to break the engagement. You just became clan leader, do you think my sister isn’t good enough for you now?”
Jing’s deadly aura also vanished “It’s not that Yi Yang isn’t good, it’s that…..”
Xiao Yao grabbed Jing and ran “He’s a lunatic, ignore him!”
Xiao Yao didn’t know where she wanted to go, but instinctively she ran in the opposite direction of the Tu Shan clan residence.
Gradually Xiao Yao got tired and she slowed down and started walking.
Walking and walking, Xiao Yao stopped.
Jing didn’t wait until she opened her mouth and said “Xiao Yao, don’t leave me.”
Xiao Yao smiled “I didn’t intend to leave you.”
“Really?” Jing didn’t believe her. He knew her too well, Xiao Yao relied on herself for survival since she was small. Her heart was strong after being forged in independence. She was too logical and cold, she needed nothing and no one. Even if Xiao Yao liked him, but once this like make her feel hurt or difficult, then she would choose to sever it.
Xiao Yao honestly said “When I saw you become clan leader I was a bit down but not anymore.”
Jing finally relaxed and held her hand “Thank you!”
Because Zhuan Xu and Feng Long was in dire need of money, the next day after Jing assumed the clan leader position, he returned to Zhi Yi Castle with Xiao Yao.
Jing didn’t go to his own residence and as usual went to Little Zhu Rong’s residence.
The servants were familiar with him and bypassed announcing him and took him directly to the Evergreen Residence.
Xing Yue heard and rushed over “Jing gege, you know my Gege doesn’t welcome you here. What is the meaning of this?”
Jing read a book and relaxed like he was in his own home “I’ll wait until Feng Long kicks me out personally.”
Xing Yue stared at Xiao Yao who shrugged her shoulders “When he wants to be unreasonable, he’s really unreasonable!”
Xing Yue shot Xiao Yao a glance and the two of them walked out of the room.
They stood under an evergreen tree and Xing Yue said “Xiao Yao, how could you pick Jing gege over my Gege? How is my Gege any less than him?”
“There is nothing lacking in any way, it’s just like eating a dish, whatever you prefer depends on your personal taste.”
“I thought you would become my sister-in-law!”
“Isn’t it enough for you to become my sister-in-law? An older sister-in-law is like an older sister, I want an older sister to be good to me.”
Xing Yue wasn’t angry at Xiao Yao to begin with and now softened even more. She asked curiously “Are you happy with Jing gege?”
“There are happy times, and there are unhappy times.”
Xing Yue sighed in solidarity “Just like me. But you’re worse than me. Fang Feng Yi Yang – even I’m worried for you. I would rather face all the women around your Gege than face one Fang Feng Yi Yang.”
The sound of slamming doors reached them and before Shan Hu and Jing Ye could open the door, the entire gate flew off the hinge.
Feng Long angrily rushed in “Jing, you dare come here?”
Xing Yue rushed to stall but Xiao Yao stopped her “Let the men resolve their manly issues.”
Xing Yue’s face changed “My Gege’s powers are super strong, if they really start fighting even three Jing gege isn’t able to beat him.”
Xiao Yao patted her shoulder “No one will die.”
Feng Long stormed into the room and Jing put down his book. Feng Long saw him so at ease and got even angrier and rushed forward to punch Jing in the face.
Jing wiped the blood from his lip “I’ll let you three punches, but after that I won’t hold back either.”
“Hold back? When have you ever held back?” Feng Long punched Jing twice in the stomach and Jing doubled over.
Feng Long went to kick Jing and Jing slammed a fist into his kneecap causing Feng Long to almost lose his balance. He was so angry he started punching and kicking and Jing didn’t hold back either and dished it right back. Two powerful high born young gods with strong powers actually started fighting like two school boys without any concern for their lofty images.
The sound of things shattering in the room reached everyone outside and Xing Yue heard it and asked in worry “You sure no one will die?”
Xiao Yao said slowly “Maybe get laid up in bed for a few months.”
Feng Long and Jing brawled and brawled until it wasn’t clear who stopped first. Neither fought anymore and both laid in complete utter mess on the ground and stared at the ceiling in silence.
Feng Long remembered that a young Jing was always courteous and polite, his clothing immaculate, unlike Feng Long who was always messy like a monkey. But one time he yelled at Hou and Jing overheard and Jing immediately got angry and threw a zither at him. The two of them got into a fight right then and there, and even though he was a better fighter than Jing, but once Jing seriously got into a fight he was toast. He vowed then and there never to be mean to Hou again. At that moment he really envied Hou for having a younger brother who would risk it all to protect him. He thought about it for a good half a year and one day his auntie reminded him to be good brothers with Jing, and Feng Long finally figured it out. If he couldn’t have a younger brother who would fight for him, he could have Jing be his older brother!
During all these years, Jing never disappointed him. His ambition, his vision, his power drive, he could tell Jing everything. Jing never felt he was being ridiculous or overreaching, and one day he secretly told Jing he wanted to break the Four Great Clans traditions. Jing only smiled “Traditions are created by people, of course it can be broken.” Feng Long asked “Will you help me?” Jing replied “I don’t want the hassle, but I won’t watch you die either.”
All these years, whatever he thought he could share with Jing and Jing would understand and help him. He never got fed up with cleaning up his messes. He watched Jing and Hou grow apart and secretly was happy because from now on Jing would only be his brother!
Actually, he wasn’t angry Jing stole Xiao Yao. He was angry Jing didn’t see him as a real brother. If Jing wanted her, all he needed to do was ask. Why didn’t Jing tell him? If Jing saw Xiao Yao as important as his own life, then how could Feng Long not give her to Jing?
Jing finally spoke “Before Xiao Yao was Xiao Yao, I already liked her. You must wonder why I never told you, that is because I could not tell you. Many times I worried that I wasn’t good enough for her. You, Fang Feng Bei, you are better options for her. No matter who gets close to her, I thinks its better for Xiao Yao. No matter who she chooses, it’ll be happier than with me. I constantly tell myself to give up, but I can’t give up.”
Feng Long felt his anger vanish and another anger rose “What do you mean you’re not good enough for Xiao Yao! Tu Shan Jing, when did you become such a weakling? Did Hou torment you to the point that your bones are soft now?” Feng Long grabbed Jing around the collar “You listen to me! My brother is the best so don’t even mention one Xiao Yao, you match up to even ten Xiao Yaos!”
Jing asked “I’m still your brother?”
Feng Long coldly huffed and turned his head to ignore Jing.
Jing said “I treat you as my brother and I know you would let me, which is why I dared to openly woo her on your territory.”
Feng Long’s annoyance was all gone and he asked “You said before Xiao Yao was Xiao Yao, you already liked her. What do you mean by that?”
“I met her a long time ago, when she was wandering the world, before she went back to being a Princess.”
Feng Long’s anger rose again and he punched Jing “So you’ve been playing me like I was a monkey!”
Jing stared “Do you think I want to? How do you think I felt when I watched you be nice to her and try to win her heart.”
Feng Long was silent for a moment and then spit out “You totally deserve it!”
Jing asked “Are you not angry anymore?”
Feng Long got up and snarled “Not yet!” But he extended his hand to help Jing up.
Feng Long stared at Jing and started laughing “No one will believe me if I said that I beat up the Tu Shan clan leader like this.”
Xing Yue poked her head in the door “Are you guys done fighting? Need a doctor called?”
Feng Long coldly harrumphed “Prepare dinner!”
Xing Yue rolled her eyes at him “Getting into a fight and then throwing an attitude!” She turned and had the maids prepare dinner in the courtyard.
Xiao Yao took out a few pills and went to first apply it on Jing before turning to Feng Long “Close your eyes.” She crushed the pulls and it turned into liquid light that seeped into the wounds and after a moment of iciness it eased the pain. Feng Long looked at Jing who smiled back at Xiao Yao and Feng Long.
Xiao Yao finished applying medicine on Feng Long and went back to treat Jing again. Xing Yue yelled from the doorway “You guys are wasting such precious medicines, watch out that you don’t get struck by lightening for such frivolous use!”
Xing Yue had dinner prepared already and invited Xiao Yao and Jing to sit down next to each other. Xing Yue felt this tableau was familiar and then laughed at Feng Long “Those two! Under our noses they were already guy likes girl, girl likes guy. No wonder that day Xiao Yao sang that song about lovers that made us all swoon.”
Xiao Yao blushed and lowered her head.
Jing said to Feng Long “Call Zhuan Xu here so that Xing Yue stops chattering.”
Xing Yue blushed “Jing gege, how can you!”
Jing said to Jing Ye “Release the bird, Zhuan Xu should get the message shortly.”
Xing Yue was nervous and said to Feng Long “Gege, you see how mean Jing gege is to me!”
Feng Long laughed “Seeing you normally so in control, seeing Jing tease you and you’re all atwitter. Jing needs to talk to Zhuan Xu about important matters.”
Xing Yue realized she was totally toyed with by Jing and glared at Xiao Yao “Now you have even stronger backing, I really can’t be mean to you in the future.”
Xiao Yao stared at Jing, it really was the first time she saw him play tricks like this in jest.
Feng Long raised a cup to Jing “You’re really regained your former glory.”
The two drank to each other.
When the dishes arrived, Xiao Yao resumed her usual ways and buried her head in her food.
Jing knew all about what Xiao Yao liked and most of his attention was on her. She liked to soak her biscuit in the meat juice so he crushed the biscuit into little pieces and put it in the lamb stew to soak it and picked it out before it got soggy and handed it to her. Xiao Yao had a weird preference, she didn’t like whole pieces of meat and liked the bits fallen on the bottom of the plate because she considered it marinating in all the juices. Jing took out all the pieces on the bottom of his place and handed it to her.
Feng Long was chatting with Jing and he was pretty clueless to these things anyways so never noticed. Xing Yue noticed all the details and saw that Jing kept talking to Feng Long but was always paying attention to Xiao Yao. These little things seemed so unimportant but he did it so naturally and with a happiness in his eyes. She watched and was actually a little bit envious of Xiao Yao.
Xing Yue suddenly asked “Jing gege, are you happy?”
Jing paused and then nodded “I’m very happy.” He could finally openly sit with Xiao Yao, could take care of Xiao Yao, how could he not be happy?
After half an hour, Zhuan Xu arrived.
Zhuan Xu bowed in apology to Jing “Your clan leader initiation ceremony, I couldn’t ask my grandfather to send me so I had to miss it. I told Feng Long to go but he was in a pissy mood so refused.”
Jing said “It was just a ceremony, attending or not doesn’t matter.”
Zhuan Xu looked at the bruises on Jing’s face and then looked at Feng Long and burst out laughing “You two are a piece of work! A clan leader and a future clan leader, without any hesitation for important matters. I think the next few days, you two will need to hide at home to heal!”
Xing Yue worriedly asked “You came in a rush, did anyone notice?”
Zhuan Xu said “Today is not like others, important matters have to be dealt with so its fine if people notice.”
Jing said to Xing Yue “Xiao Yao will stay in her old residence, have someone prepare it.”
Xing Yue understood what Jing mean and said to Xiao Yao “I’ll take you to check it out, if anything is missing let me know and I’ll arrange it.”
Xiao Yao left the courtyard with Xing Yue and asked “I’m not interested in their stuff, but why are you also stepping out?”
Xing Yue replied “If you don’t tell your Gege, then I’ll tell you.”
“I won’t tell him.”
“My Gege wants me to stay away from it. He wants me to be a happy woman and the less I’m involved in the men’s affairs the better.”
“Your Gege seems rather clueless and obtuse but he gets the important things. He is truly a strategically smart person.”
Xing Yue laughed “It’s not too late to change your mind! My Gege is happy to marry you. He says you’re just like a guy and it’s not bad hanging out for the rest of life together.”
Xiao Yao felt her temper rise, was Feng Long trying to compliment her? Xiao Yao chuckled “If Jing doesn’t want me, I’ll cast my lot with your brother.”
Zhuan Xu chatted with Jing and immediately left, not even coming to see Xiao Yao. Under Jing’s direction, Zhuan Xu and Feng Long’s pressing matter was swiftly resolved,
Zhuan Xu could continue to skim money off the Palace renovation. Jing also passed all the profit to Xing Yue who then handed it to Feng Long.
Jing and the tribal leader of the Li Jie tribe Li Jie Chang had some ties so he introduced him to Zhuan Xu. After Zhuan Xu conferred with Li Jie Chang, the tribe couldn’t contribute money all the time but he was willing to assign the bravest men in the tribe to take orders from Zhuan Xu.
Because Hou made a blood vow not to vie for the clan leader position, he stopped opposing Jing in all areas. Jing didn’t immediately make clear he was supporting Zhuan Xu, but at the clan meeting he make clear that the Tu Shan clan wasn’t going to have close ties with Cang Lin and Yu Yang anymore. Hou gradually distanced himself from Cang Lin and Yu Yang.
In the beginning Cang Lin and Yu Yang thought Hou was playing games and if they agreed to back him as clan leader then he would support them as well, only to realize that Hou appeared really no longer going to vie for the clan leader position.
Even though Zhuan Xu and Feng Long’s association was very covert, but forty years had passed and with the expansion of Zhuan Xu’s power base in the Middle Plains, some things could no longer be concealed. Even the best concealment would reveal cracks and Cang Lin and Yu Yang understood that Feng Long had chosen to support Zhuan Xu.
Soon the entire Middle Plains knew that Zhuan Xu and Feng Long were close, but Cang Lin and Yu Yang thought that Zhuan Xu was behind the betrayal of Hou. They started to reevaluate Zhuan Xu and the more they thought about it the more nervous they got. He was a useless piece of trash they sent off to do a thankless task, who expected he could turn into a true power. That this power was independent of the Xuan Yuan influence. Forget them, even the Yellow Emperor would have trouble corralling Zhuan Xu.
Cang Lin and Yu Yang called their allies together to discuss how to deal with Zhuan Xu but could not get a common answer.
Some thought to immediately take him out.
Others thought it was much ado about nothing. Even if Zhuan Xu was close with the Middle Plains families it wasn’t a big deal? All the armed forces was under the control of the Xuan Yuan tribe. As long as the Yellow Emperor didn’t pass control of the army to Zhuan Xu, then there was nothing Zhuan Xu could do. The way it looked, the Yellow Emperor tossed Zhuan Xu to the Middle Plains and never paid him any attention, clearly he didn’t see him as important. If he was killed now, that would instead alert the Yellow Emperor’s attention and if he changed his mind and summoned Zhuan Xu back to Cao Yun Court, then it would be a greater problem.
Someone suggested that the Yellow Emperor was wary of the Middle Plains families and since Zhuan Xu was getting close with them, they could find an opportunity to frame Zhuan Xu for traitorous collusion.
Cang Lin and Yu Yang got more and more anxious, not sure whether to get rid of Zhuan Xu or to do nothing for now. The more they thought the more they felt like the third option was the best. Let Zhuan Xu get closer with the Middle Plains families and then wait for the opportunity to lead the Yellow Emperor to removing Zhuan Xu personally.