When the Gods live so long in Lost You Forever, months is really days and years really months and hundreds of years merely a year the way we experience it. Hence waiting has less duration and more a feeling of holding onto a hope. Jing’s fifteen year promise with Xiao Yao is long over since she’s slept thirty-seven years in a clam shell with Xiang Liu already, but that promise no longer matters as Xiao Yao will wait for Jing. She tried to walk away many chapters ago, when Jing first disappointed her and she was actually ready to excise him from her life and end the promise. But she loves him and is clearly putty in his hands, anytime Jing steps up he finds a way to keep holding onto Xiao Yao. Will his intelligence and ability to quietly plot finally break through his grandmother’s insistence that he marry Fang Feng Yi Yang? One of my favorite parts of this story is seeing four very capable and confident and powerful characters all working their best to achieve their goals. It’s hardest to read Xiang Liu while the other three are like open books.
Xiao Yao’s goal is a happy simply life with a man who loves her, Jing’s goal is to be with Xiao Yao, and Zhuan Xu’s goal is to make the world a safe place for Xiao Yao and give her whatever she wants. Xiang Liu’s goal in life is probably like the way he lives as both Xiang Liu and Fang Feng Bei, he has two goals with one personal and one his day job as the General of the Sheng Nong resistance army. His life would be so much simpler if he didn’t run across Xiao Yao and her mouthful of lies in the mountain that day, but just like Xiao Yao ran across a half-dead Jing outside her medical clinic, sometimes fate is one tricky and elusive beast that brings people together only to plunge them into the sweetest kind of angst. Everything is starting to come a head and the Jing and Xiao Yao ship will make a clear turn in one direction soon. Xiao Yao will also be given a huge clue to what kind of voodoo bug is linking her with Xiang Liu, but before then she gets a gift from Xiang Liu that she won’t even know is a gift from Xiang Liu. And what a gift it is, tailor-made for her forged from the wonders he scoured from the ends of the world, how much more devastating would it be if she ever found out who made it for her?
Chapter 24 – Love and Hate are Inextricably Tied Together:
Jing finished up Zhuan Xu and Feng Long’s pressing matters and prepared to rush back to Qing Qiu to spend time with his grandmother.
Xiao Yao initially didn’t want to get involved with the Grand Madam’s situation since if there was a person around the Grand Madam who could plant a voodoo bug in her then that person was clearly a voodoo master. Xiao Yao didn’t think her half-assed knowledge would be any better, but it was still Jing’s grandmother so Xiao Yao couldn’t really not care about her.
Xiao Yao said “I want to go with you to see the Grand Madam.”
Jing knew Xiao Yao’s poison ability was almost unmatched in this world and even if she only used a voodoo bug once it was already powerful enough for Zhuan Xu to have no way to counter it. Jing took her hand “Thank you.”
Xiao Yao said “I might not be able to help so it’s too early for thanks.”
Jing smiled “I’m not thanking you for doing anything, I’m thanking you for caring.”
Xiao Yao tossed his hand aside and muttered “What care do I have for you, stop assuming things.”
Jing smiled at Xiao Yao and said nothing and her cheeks turned red.
Jing took Xiao Yao back to Qing Qiu and arrived just when the Grand Madam had another eruption.
Jing rushed in to check on her while Xiao Yao waited outside.
The sound of gutwrenching screams filtered out and anyone listening would be quaking in fear. Miao Pu said to Xiao Yao “No wonder everyone in the vast wilderness turns scared when hearing about voodoo, the bug backfiring is truly scary! The Tu Shan Grand Madam was a widow since she was young and is notorious for being an iron lady. Hearing her pitiful and painful screams, the voodoo bug is really scary.”
After awhile, Jing, Hou, Yi Yang, and Lan Mu walked out of the Grand Madam’s room and the pained expression on Hou and Jing’s face was identical. It was clear they were brothers.
Xiao Yao walked up and said to both “Can I see the Grand Madam to diagnose her?”
Hou and Yi Yang both were stunned. They immediately remembered how Jing wanted to end the engagement and made the connection but still found it such a stretch. Hou asked in shock “Why is the Princess here?”
Jing answered for Xiao Yao “I invited her.”
Only the Grand Madam and Jing knew the real reason Jing was unconscious for so long. Yi Yang always thought he was severely injured physically so she never imagined Jing and Xiao Yao getting together. Yi Yang asked Jing “Is it her?”
Jing said nothing and Yi Yang was flabbergasted and blurt out “How can it be? How can she ever like you?”
Yi Yang’s voice was raw with her derision towards Jing that everyone was stunned by what she said. Hou coughed and said to Xiao Yao “I’m sorry, my grandmother can’t see guests right now. Princess please leave!”
Xiao Yao said “I want to see the Grand Madam because I know voodoo. Before I check her personally I can’t be certain, but if I can help even a little and I didn’t, then I’ll feel terrible.”
Hou asked in disbelief “You know voodoo? That is a Jiu Li tribe secret learning. How would you know it?”
Xiao Yao smiled “I just know it.”
Jing said to Xiao Yao “Let’s go back and when grandmother is better, I’ll let her know.”
Jing walked off with Xiao Yao and Hou and Yi Yang watched them leave with perplexed expressions on their face. If it was another woman, she could like Jing for his wealth and position, but Xiao Yao wanted for nothing and even the lofty Feng Long was pursuing her. It was hard to imagine that she could pick any man and she picked Jing!
The Grand Madam didn’t want to see Xiao Yao but after Jing pleaded she finally agreed.
Jing was the new clan leader and Xiao Yao didn’t want this matter to be bandied about and cause problems later so asked that Hou and Yi Yang was present when she treated the Grand Madam.
Xiao Yao walked into the Grand Madam’s residence and saw the Grand Madam, Jing, Hou, and an old woman who was the Grand Madam’s long term doctor named Se Mai Er.
The Grand Madam smiled “Jing said the Princess you know voodoo?”
Xiao Yao replied “A little.”
The Grand Madam pointed to the old woman “Her name is Se Mai Er, she is a Jiu Li tribe woman. She learned voodoo in the tribe and later became a slave. I saved her and brought her back to the Tu Shan clan. I found a doctor for her to learn medicine from. She might not be known in the vast wilderness, but her medical skills are as good as the doctors in the Gao Xing and Xuan Yuan courts.”
Xiao Yao glanced at Se Mai Er and saw her sleeved was embroidered with little colorful moths that looked like butterflies to the eye. Xiao Yao remembered the Jiu Li Voodoo King’s manual wrote about these moths and included strange writings next to it. Xiao Yao made a hand gesture to Se Mai Er and then recited the lines from the manual.
Se Mai Er’s face changed and she immediately knelt down before Xiao Yao and was agitated and pleading and reverent. She bowed and used voodoo language to speak with Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao learned some Jiu Li voodoo language when she was small from her mom so she could read what the Voodoo King wrote in his manual, but she never lived in Jiu Li so she couldn’t speak it and could only somewhat understand it.
Xiao Yao guessed a bit and slowly tried to explain “I am not the next voodoo king, I’m just…..” If it wasn’t for the poison manual left for her by her mom that was written by the Jiu Li Voodoo King, she’d be long dead by now, so it was accurate to say the Voodoo King saved her and Xiao Yao felt great respect for him “The Voodoo King saved my life and taught me voodoo. I know you didn’t harm anyone and the Voodoo King will not punish you.”
Se Mai Er happily bowed to Xiao Yao and said “You are his disciple.”
Was she the Voodoo King’s disciple? Xiao Yao didn’t know but said to Se Mai Er “Don’t tell anyone my connection with the Voodoo King.”
Se Mai Er agreed and got up after Xiao Yao signaled her to.
The Grand Madam and Hou had known Se Mai Er for a hundred years and saw her as always quiet and cold, she was merely respectful to the Grand Madam who saved her life. But right now she was so reverent and respectful of Xiao Yao that everyone now believed Xiao Yao knew voodoo.
Se Mai Er said to the Grand Madam “She can help you, not only lessen your pain, maybe even extend your life.”
The Grand Madam was willing to endure the pain for her grandsons and for the clan, but there was no person who would turn down the offer to lessen the pain or live a but longer. The Grand Madam anxiously looked at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao smiled sheepishly, Se Mai Er was really a true believer of the Voodoo King! She made this promise even before Xiao Yao could diagnose her, but with the knowledge in her brain of the Sheng Nong Herb Manual and the Jiu Liu Poison Voodoo Manual, plus with Se Mai Er around, Xiao Yao was fairly certain she could lessen her pain.
Xiao Yao went to check on the Grand Madam who was fully cooperating. Xiao Yao didn’t need to ask Se Mai Er and diagnosed it as a idiotic moth voodooo bug and confirmed it with Se Mai Er who nodded “Yes, I raised the idiotic moth voodoo bug.”
Xiao Yao gained confidence and had already guessed the type of bug in the Grand Madam and already considered how to counter this type of bug.
The Grand Madam anxiously looked at Xiao Yao and she said “The Grand Madam should raise a few canaries! The canaries are the natural enemies of the moths and even the most powerful beings when faced with its natural enemy will shrink in fear. Find canaries that are hundreds of years old with spiritual powers and keep them beside you at all times. It might not lessen the pain but will lengthen the episodes when the moths flare up. It will suppress the moths day after day and let you live at ease more. I’ll go make some pain pills that may lessen the pain during the episodes. I can’t guarantee it’ll work until after you take it during an episode. If it works, then after you take better care of your health, you may be able to live out a full year.”
Hou quickly said “I’ll have someone go find the canaries for grandmother.”
The Grand Madam said to Xiao Yao “I’m not afraid of death but I can’t bear to leave Jing and Hou behind. I hope to see them walk a bit further in life. Thank you Princess.”
Xiao Yao said “Grand Madam, no need for thanks. I’m half a doctor and treating patients is what I do.”
The Grand Madam glanced at Jing and said “If Princess doesn’t mind, you can call me Grandmother like Jing does.”
Xiao Yao looked at Jing and he stared at her. She smiled and said “Grandmother.”
The Grand Madam smiled and nodded her head.
Xiao Yao had Jing collect all the supplies to brew medicine and the ingredients, then asked for a bowl of Se Mai Er’s blood to use to lure the medicine effect out.
The Tu Shan clan was definitely the richest family in the world and their supplies were even more sprawling than even in the Palace. Everything was ready and Xiao Yao started brewing the medicine. She was used to making poisons and this was just a dash different, one was to kill a person, one was to save a person. But the process was about the same so Xiao Yao was really adept at it.
Jing used a handkerchief to wipe her sweat “Tired?”
Xiao Yao smiled “Don’t worry, this is so easy compared to making poisons for Xiang Liu.”
Jing fell silent and then asked “You’ve still been making poisons for Xiang Liu this whole time?”
Xiao Yao purposely stared at the fire and casually replied “Yes!”
Jing slowly said “That night…..I felt that Fang Feng Bei was Xiang Liu.”
Xiao Yao was startled and didn’t wan’t to lie to Jing but also didn’t want to expose Xiang Liu’s secret so she tiredly said “I don’t want to discuss those two guys.”
Jing said “I’ll tend the fire for you and you go rest.”
Xiao Yao leaned against his shoulder and said “You don’t know how to do this, it’s light chores so I’ll teach you slowly later on.”
One phrase “slowly later on” slowly relaxed Jing’s tense heart. He smiled and watched their shadows in the fire as it warmed their figures.
After seven days and nights the pills were finished. Little red pills the size of longans but released a bitter sour taste. Xiao Yao handed the pills to the Grand Madam who thanked her. Xiao Yao said “I did the work but Se Mai Er had to give the blood.”
Se Mai Er said “The Grand Madam gave me a lot of magical pills and soon I will be all recovered.”
The Grand Madam said “I have to thank both of you.”
Xiao Yao said “Take these pills with wine once a day at noon. I made one hundred and nine pills and if it’s useful I will make more.”
Hou looked at the water clock and said “It’s almost noon.”
Xiao Yu brought the wine and Jing and Hou helped the Grand Madam take her pill.
The Grand Madam said “We’ll know tomorrow if it works. Xiao Yu and Se Mai Er are here to assist so everyone can leave now!”
The next morning, Xiao Yao had just gotten up when the Grand Madam’s maid was at her door. Xiao Yao thought something was wrong with the pills so quickly washed up and rushed to see the Grand Madam.
Jing, Hou, Lan Mu, and Yi Yang were all there and the room was filled with light laughter as opposed to the previously somber mood.
The Grand Madam saw Xiao Yao and beckoned her over “Come sit next to Grandmother.”
Yi Yang’s hand clenched into a fist but her expression remained gentle and warm with a beaming smile as if all she cared about was the Grand Madam’s health.
Xiao Yao sat down and picked up the Grand Madam’s wrist to take her pulse.
The Grand Madam smiled “Last night the bug acted up and it was painful but compared to the days before it was like a cat scratch as opposed to a lion claw.” The Grand Madam patted Xiao Yao’s hand “Whether I can live a few extra day, even by the pain lessening now, you’ve already saved my old life.”
Xiao Yao let out a sigh of relief “It works.”
Xiao Yao got up to leave “I rushed here worried something bad happened. I haven’t eaten yet so I’m off.”
The Grand Madam saw Xiao Yao very casual and didn’t try to get close to her, plus she kept an eye on Xiao Yao secretly these last few days, and had decided Jing had good taste. It was too bad she was a Princess.
After Xiao Yao left, the Grand Madam sent everyone away except for Jing.
When they were alone, the Grand Madam asked Jing “Do you want to marry the Gao Xing Princess?”
Jing answered clearly “Yes!”
The Grand Madam sighed “It’s too bad she’s the Gao Xing Princess, and also the granddaughter of the Yellow Emperor! You know the number one rule of our clan is that we do not get involved with politics between the royals. The Four Great Clans have remained so powerful because we do not get involved. Xiao Yao is the Princess but she’s not in Five Gods Mountain but instead by the side of the Xuan Yuan Prince Zhuan Xu. She’s clearly picking sides on the battle for the Xuan Yuan throne succession. She’s not a woman who can be underestimated. I don’t want the Tu Shan clan dragged in. Right now the vast wilderness is at peace but I calculate that the Xuan Yuan Yellow Emperor and the Gao Xing Grand Emperor will inevitably battle each other. Xiao Yao will bring danger to the Tu Shan clan. It’s not that I don’t like her, but for the Tu Shan clan, even if your engagement with Yi Yang is dissolved, I still won’t agree to let you marry Xiao Yao.”
Jing thought his grandmother would see Xiao Yao and change her mind but her mind was even more firmly set. He kneeled down to plead “The Four Great Clans have their self-preservation rules but rules were set thousands of years ago by ancestors and the situation has changed now. It’s not always correct and we need to change according to the times.”
The Grand Madam’s goodwill towards Xiao Yao evaporated in an instant and she harshly rebuked “You are the clan leader, how can you say such awful words? You’ve been well-behaved since childhood and when have you became as careless as Feng Long? Did the Gao Xing Princess teach you this?”
“No, Xiao Yao never said this, it’s my own observation after seeing the current situation.”
The Grand Madam didn’t believe him and was sure Xiao Yao pressured him and wanted to use the Tu Shan clan to help Zhuan Xu get the crown “Tu Shan Jing, as clan leader you cannot overthrow our ancestral rules for a woman! How can you…..” The Grand Madam couldn’t continue as she pressed her chest to catch her breath.
Jing hurriedly transferred power to her “Grandmother, Grandmother, please take care!”
The Grand Madam said “You promise your grandmother that you’ll give up the Gao Xing Princess.”
Jing remained kneeling and said nothing, only bowing his head repeatedly.
The Grand Madam saw the despair in his eyes and said forlornly “You wretch!” She stroked his head and cried “Jing, don’t hate grandmother, this is what must be!”
Xiao Yao practiced her archery for an hour and felt a bit tired and handed her bow to Shan Hu before heading to check on JIng.
As she left her residence, she strolled along the forest lane leisurely since she loved the crisp Autumn air and the red leaves out. She took her time and took the long route heading up the mountain to a pavilion to rest a bit and enjoy the view.
Miao Pu tugged her sleeve and whispered “Princess, look!”
Xiao Yao looked at the direction she pointed, and after she was injured and her body took in a lot of Xiang Liu’s essential soul blood, there were a lot of changes and one of it was much farther and sharper vision. She saw at the bottom of the mountain lane Jing and Yi Yang walking alongside each other. It wasn’t clear what they were talking about but their footsteps appeared slow.
They arrived at Jing’s residence and he stopped to bid Yi Yang farewell. She suddenly embraced him and appeared to be crying as her body shook. She looked like a flower in the rain, sad and frail, as if needing protection.
Jing wanted to push her away but her powers were strong so he pushed a few times but she wouldn’t budge and instead held on tighter to him. He was still a gentleman so he couldn’t rebuke a crying woman so he could only try to avoid her.
Miao Pu said “Master Jing is too soft-hearted. Some women are like vines, seemingly weak but clinging on ever tighter.”
Xiao Yao walked out of the pavilion and headed towards Jing’s residence. Maio Pu said “If Princess is annoyed, tell His highness and he’ll have an idea to chase Fang Feng Yi Yang away.”
Xiao Yao said “We’re not even together and I need Gege to help solve the problem. Later when we are together and it’s forever, we’ll face all sorts of problems. Should I have my Gege help me each and every time?”
Miao Pu stuck out her tongue and giggled “His highness will be happy to solve Princess’s problems for the rest of your life.”
Xiao Yao strolled another turn in the forest before heading back.
Shan Hu saw then return and asked “Was Master Jing busy, you’re back so soon?”
Miao Pu gave Shan Hu a look and Shan Hu immediately changed the topic “Princess, are you thirsty? When we were leaving, Miss Xing Yue gave me some evergreen flowers and I’ll go brew you some evergreen honey water.”
That afternoon Jing came to see Xiao Yao and he looked thoroughly exhausted. Xiao Yao pretended not to notice and said nothing. The two silently sat for a bit and Xiao Yao passed him a cup of evergreen flower honey “This time I came to Qing Qiu with you for the Grand Madam’s illness. Now she’s stabilized, and takes her pills regularly and I send more on a regular basis, that ought to be enough. I’m going to head back now.”
Jing said “I’m going to Zhi Yi Castle in a few days, let’s go together then!”
Xiao Yao smiled “The truth is that I’m not accustomed to staying here. You know my personality, casual and lazy. I can’t even stay in Five Gods Mountain and my dad knows it which is why he allows me to wander around the world. If I stay here I need to watch what I say and do for the sake of my dad and my grandfather. I can’t be myself.”
Jing quickly said “Then I’ll send someone to escort you back. I’ll spend some time with my grandmother and then go to Zhi Yi.”
Xiao Yao smiled and nodded her head.
The second day Xiao Yao left with Shan Hu and Miao Pu but didn’t go to Little Zhu Rong’s residence and instead went to Sheng Nong Mountain’s Zhi Jin Summit.
Zhuan Xu was inspecting a renovation site so wasn’t in Zhi Jin Palace. Jin Xuan settled Xiao Yao in a residence.
That night Zhuan Xu came back and found Xiao Yao laying in the courtyard staring at the stars. He went inside to grab a blanket to cover her and then laid down next to her. “The tired bird come back to the nest?”
Zhuan Xu said “Jing couldn’t have anticipated the Grand Madam having only another year left and it messed up his plans. Fang Feng Yi Yang also couldn’t have expected that with Jing as the clan leader now, if the Grand Madam died then the Tu Shan clan cannot restrict his plans anymore. So no one will help Fang Feng Yi Yang to marry Jing so she needs to rush the marriage now before the Grand Madam dies. She was always anxious but with you suddenly appearing in Qing Qiu, it would be like her greatest enemy showing up on her front step. She’s going to use every way to cling onto Jing. So you shouldn’t blame Jing too much for what happened and let it go.”
Xiao Yao knew Miao Pu would tell Zhuan Xu about it so wasn’t surprised “I don’t know if you assigned me Miao Pu to protect me or keep tabs on me.”
Zhuan Xu smiled “You think Shan Hu doesn’t report everything about you to Master? This is what caring is, like a warm blanket on a cold night, but pressed on it feels like a burden. We can control ourselves to each just assign one person to you so you should count your lucky stars!”
Xiao Yao said “I want to go back to Gao Xing and see my dad. Any word you want me to bring?”
“No, but I have presents for Consort Jing An and Ah Nian. When are you going back?”
“If your present is ready by tomorrow, I’ll leave tomorrow.”
Zhuan Xu smiled wanly “Are you missing Master or trying to avoid Jing?”
“Both. From when I woke up until Jing took over as clan leader, we have both been forced into decisions due to the circumstances. No matter what he’s now the clan leader and carries the future of his entire clan on his back. I feel like he needs to settle down and we both need to assess our new roles in life and decide what we each need.”
“You keep talking about him, but what about yourself? What do you think?”
Xiao Yao flipped over and rest her chin on the pillow and stared at Zhuan Xu “Forget me, I’m the same as you! We appear to be two extremes but we’re the same. We will never actively fight for something, because we’re afraid that it’s a mistake to fight for it to begin with. We are both so reactive hoping the choice picks us.”
Zhuan Xu looked torn and glanced at Xiao Yao before laughing “I’m different than you, I don’t care about romance.”
Xiao Yao laughed “This is different, I want someone to spend an entire life with me, but you’ve chosen to spend your entire life with power.”
Zhuan Xu rubbed her head and sighed “The presents will be ready tomorrow, you leave tomorrow then! Go rest in Five Gods Mountain and if you get bored then go fight with Ah Nian.”
Xiao Yao laughed out loud “What kind of Gege are you? Encouraging your two sisters to fight?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “Only siblings can fight and still keep on fighting in the future. Friends would be strangers already after fighting. Ah Nian is just innocent but not stupid. You angered her to leave last time, she likely already figured out what you did to protect her.”
Xiao Yao returned to Five Gods Mountain with Shan Hu and Miao Pu accompanying her.
It was early Winter in the Middle Plains but still warm like Spring in Gao Xing. Xiao Yao resumed her previous leisurely life, practicing archery in the morning, making poisons in the afternoon, but now she added one more hobby which was to start learning more medicine.
One day the Grand Emperor finished court early and came to watch Xiao Yao practice archery.
Xiao Yao finished a hard practice and went to sit beside her dad, her hair was mussed and she took our her gorilla mirror to fix her hair and asked “Dad, how’s my archery skill?”
The Grand Emperor nodded and took Xiao Yao’s hand to examine her callouses “Your persistence with archery is beyond what I expected. Xiao Yao, why do you desire such ability? Is it because we don’t make you feel safe enough?”
Xiao Yao cocked her head and smiled “It’s not that I don’t trust you all, it’s that I’m used to years of taking care of myself. I’ve got so much time on my hands I ought to find things to do.”
Xiao Yao pulled her hand back to put her mirror away but the Grand Emperor grabbed it and waved his hand across. The image of Xiang Liu swimming in the ocean depths appeared and Xiao Yao stared in a daze. Even though when she was unconscious Xiang Liu told her to erase the images, but after she woke up he didn’t mention it again so she had forgotten about it.
The Grand Emperor asked “Is he Nine-lives Xiang Liu? This time, he was the one who saved you?”
Xiao Liu answered in a low voice “Yes.”
The Grand Emperor covered the mirror with his hand and the image of Xiang Liu disappeared.
The Grand Emperor said “Xiao Yao, I don’t restrict your freedom but as your father I beg of you – do not have any relationship with him. He’s exactly on the opposite side of Zhuan Xu and your blood line has already made the choice for you.” The Grand Emperor had already seen one tragedy before, he didn’t want to see the same tragedy with Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao took the mirror back and smiled “Dad, what are you thinking about? My interactions with him have always been a transaction. He saved me because he made a deal with Zhuan Xu.”
The Grand Emperor sighed “You need to remember this well, I would rather have the entire world vilify and castigate me for eliminating the entire Fang Feng family if that is what it takes to snatch that Tu Shan clan’s little fox for you. That is preferable than you having anything to do with Xiang Liu.”
Xiao Yao made a funny face to her dad and laughed “Okay, okay, I remember! Daddy who likes to lecture, your subordinates are all waiting for you!”
There was a day when he was called someone who liked to lecture? The Grand Emperor rapped Xiao Yao on the head and left.
Xiao Yao lowered her head to stare at the gorilla mirror, and gradually her smile disappeared completely.
The Grand Emperor watched Xiao Yao’s archery practice and summoned the most famed weapons forger in the Jin Tian family to make a bow for Xiao Yao.
To have her own bow, and forged by the mysterious Jin Tian family, even the casual Xiao Yao got all dressed up to solemnly await the master forger.
A young girl with apple cheeks, her hair in two braids, wearing raggedy clothes walked in and checked Xiao Yao out “Make a bow for you? Your powers are so weak and you want a bow to kill people? The clan leader didn’t lie to me, this really is a very challenging project!”
Xiao Yao incredulously asked “Are you the master forger who is making my bow?”
The girl lifted her chin “I am Xing Shen, the most talented forger in the Jin Tian family. If my clan leader didn’t keep saying this would be a challenging project, even if His majesty asks I would turn him down.”
Xiao Yao bowed “Please will you assist.”
Xing Shen saw Xiao Yao’s humble request and nodded her head happily. She took out a bow and had Xiao Yao shoot it. Xiao Yao shot ten straight arrows and Xing Shen nodded her head. She had Xiao Yao stand still and took out her tools to quickly make a Xiao Yao doll. Then she looked at Xiao Yao’s palms and her face registered confusion.
She asked “Any requirements for the bow? Like color, shape, added features, etc.”
Xiao Yao answered “One requirement – it can kill a person!”
Xing Shen was stunned and said “I really wonder if you’re a woman.”
Xiao Yao laughed “I wonder the same thing about you.”
Xing Shen laughed out loud “I’m going back to think about it. When the weapon is ready I’ll contact you. Fast is ten to twenty years, slow might be a hundred years. So don’t think too much about it!”
Strangely a month later, Xing Shen came to find Xiao Yao and said “Your people killing bow is almost ready.”
Xiao Yao was stunned “That fast?”
“It’s not fast, this bow was commissioned by someone else and has been forged for the past thirty five years. He suddenly changed his mind and doesn’t want it. I think it’s suitable for you so decided to give it to you.”
“So that’s it, I’m so lucky!”
Xing Shen nodded “Your lucky isn’t just any luck, you have no idea what this bow is made out of. The most rare materials in the entire vast wilderness – mermaid bones, monster fish ruby, undersea bamboo, demon clam blood, star sand from the Heavens, the moon stone which can collect all the essence from the moon…..”
The more Xing Shen said the more in awe she was but Xiao Yao was totally clueless. Xing Shen knew Xiao Yao didn’t know just how rare those precious items were “Just know that it’s the most rare precious things in the entire world. Even if His majesty wanted to gather it all, he would have a hard time doing so! I really don’t know how that guy managed to collect all these materials for the bow!”
Xiao Yao nodded “And he doesn’t want such a weapon?”
Xing Shen furrowed her brow “He doesn’t want it means he doesn’t want it! What could be the reason? It’s not because I didn’t make it the best!”
Xiao Yao said “I believe you!”
Xing Shen smiled “Such an amazing weapon I would rather destroy instead of giving to just anyone, but I think you’re not bad so decided to give it to you.”
Xiao Yao asked “Can I ask out of curiosity – who commissioned it?”
Xing Shen said “I don’t know either, I just know the guy is connected with the Gui Fang clan. Every time he meets with me, he wears a large black robe, a hat covering his entire head, he’s wrapped snugly from head to toe.”
“How do you know it’s Gui Fang clan?”
“When he came to the Jin Tian family, he held a token of the Gui Fang clan leader. The Jin Tian family is indebted to the Gui Fang clan so the clan leader had me forge a weapon for him. I didn’t want to accept but my clan leader said he wanted a bow that would allow someone with weak powers to kill someone with strong powers. I had never heard of such a request so decided to meet him. He handed me a few designs and it was all flawed, but then I realized I could design something that could meet his requirements.” Xing Shen quieted and scratched her head “If it wasn’t that he couldn’t possibly know you, it’s like he commissioned that bow specifically for you! Are you sure you two don’t know each other?”
Xiao Yao thought about the Gui Fang clan leader token and knew the person had strong ties with the Gui Fang clan. The only person she knew who had any ties with the Gui Fang clan was Zhuan Xu so Xiao Yao laughed “It can’t be someone I know. Having a bow commissioned for me is a nice thing so who would’t tell me. I wouldn’t turn it down!”
Xing Shen nodded “The materials used to make this bow is so goddamn awesome plus it took me thirty five years to make it, this is definitely the best work I have ever made to date. But….”
Xiao Yao was listening happily until the “but” and she asked “But what?”
“But the bow needs to recognize its owner.”
“Lots of weapons need to recognize its owner.”
“This bow is harder to tame than the best wild stallion in the world. It’s requirements are unique, but since you’re a Princess, His majesty can likely solve the problem for you.”
“How to solve it?”
“It needs the blood of the King of the Seas the Nine-headed demon. Plus it needs to be blood from a full moon.” Xing Shen chuckled and felt that this requirement really was ridiculous “The only Nine-headed demon I have ever heard of in the vast wilderness is that Nine-lives Xiang Liu. I heard he’s difficult to deal with but you’re a Princess! You’re dad is the Grand Emperor! You guys can find a way!”
Xiao Yao’s eyes were in a daze and she couldn’t speak for the longest time.
Xing Shen twirled her head and laughed “And even the owner recognizing method sure is unique as well.”
Xiao Yao stared at Xing Shen and Xing Shen slowly explained “The blood of the nine-headed demon isn’t to feed to the weapon, it’s for the weapon owner to drink, then the weapon owner uses her own blood afterwards to feed to the weapon.”
Xiao Yao stared at Xing Shen and couldn’t smile or frown “No wonder no one wants this bow.”
Xing Shen’s dry laugh confirmed it “It can’t be helped, being made of so many rare treasures, only the blood of the nine-headed demon can control it completely.”
Xiao Yao smiled and said nothing. Xing Shen didn’t know that Xiang Liu used poisons to train so his blood couldn’t be ingested at all! Perhaps that guy knew something which is why he gave up.
Xing Shen said “Princess, this really is a one-of-a-kind extraordinary bow, I guarantee you won’t regret having it.”
Xiao Yao asked “When can the owner recognition take place?”
Xing Shen said “Any full moon night.”
“Fine, then this full moon night I’ll go see you.”
Xing Shen’s eyes were saucer wide “Princess means this month? Two days from now?”
“You said I was a Princess, my dad is the Grand Emperor!”
Xing Shen laughed “Fine, I’ll go prepare immediately and see you in two days in Jin Tian Canyon.”
Full moon night, Jin Tian Canyon.
The servant led Xiao Yao into a spiritual circle created by Shen Xing.
In the distance there was a waterfall with water brought from the holy Yang Valley that was used just to forge weapons. There was an eternal hot volcano to the right of the waterfall which seemed like a red ruby if it didn’t emit heat.
Xing Shen still looked raggedy with her hair in two disheveled braids but she was wearing a pure white ceremonial robe and appeared solemn and reserved.
She asked Xiao Yao “Are you prepared?”
Xiao Yao said “Yes!”
Xing Shen looked at the full moon above and began to recite chants. Her voice started slow but gradually got faster and faster and the volcanic fire started bubbling and turning the entire sky red.
At Xing Shen’s final chant the volcano erupted in full and sent sparks shooting into the air like dancing flames, and then one white arc cut through the red like a caged bird freed from captivity.
Xing Shen had her hands clenched in a spell as she chanted but the white light totally ignored her and danced in the sky. Xing Shen’s face turned white and her sweat dripped down and she bit her own tongue tip and the white light finally reluctantly came down from the sky.
As it’s speed slowed, Xiao Yao finally saw that it was a silver white bow without any marking on it, it was so beautiful Xiao Yao couldn’t turn her eyes away. Xiao Yao walked forward and reached out her hand to the sky and the bow slid down on her arm like a silver white crescent moon,
The bow started slicing her arm, slice after deep slice it cut so deep her bone was exposed.
Xiao Yao felt the pain as the bow demanded to know how she had the right to own it. If Xiao Yao couldn’t answer, the bow would destroy her body.
But as the bow sampled her blood, it quieted down and was finally subdued.
Xiao Yao ordered it “Fold!”
The silver white bow entered her arm and disappeared, leaving only the mark of a crescent moon shaped bow on her arm, like a beautiful tattoo.
Xing Shen sat down on the ground “Now you know why I said there had to be the blood from a nine-headed demon.”
Xiao Yao said “Thank you!”
Xing Shen took a few pills and wiped her sweat “No need! It’s was coincidence and luck that this bow was meant to be yours. Next time when I want something from His majesty, I won’t hold back!”
Xiao Yao put medicine on her cuts and said “Want me to check what treasures my dad has squirreled away?”
Xing Shen shook her head “I already know what I want.”
Xing Shen regained her strength and stood up to walk Xiao Yao out “Your powers are low so you can only shoot three arrows a day. Use wisely!”
Xiao Yao genuinely thank her “For someone who is nearly useless, three times a day is more than enough!”
Xing Shen looked at the thick callouses on Xiao Yao’s hands and sighed “I don’t deserve the thanks, you grabbed this from the Heavens own hands!” She couldn’t believe that a Princess could be so tough on herself.
Xiao Yao stayed in Five Gods Mountain for nearly three months.
She calculated the Grand Madam’s pills were almost done and she needed to go back. Xiao Yao went to say her goodbyes to her dad.
She didn’t see Ah Nian much and occasionally both would dine with the Grand Emperor and never said much to each other.
Hearing Xiao Yao was leaving, Ah Nian came to find her “You’re leaving for Sheng Nong Mountain tomorrow?”
“I hear Zhuan Xu gege is all good again now and doesn’t screw around with bad influences.”
“Daddy said Zhuan Xu gege was just acting back then.”
Xiao Yao replied “He was.”
Ah Nian glared at Xiao Yao “Why didn’t you tell me back then, why have me misunderstand Zhuan Xu gege?”
“Zhuan Xu didn’t tell me back then either and I knew what you knew. What could I say to you. Would you have accepted my own conclusion?”
Ah Nian heard Zhuan Xu didn’t tell Xiao Yao and felt better and asked “I, I want to go to Sheng Nong Mountain with you. Can I?”
Ah Nian actually lowered herself to Xiao Yao for Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao sighed “I heard Dad has been picking your future husband for you. There is no one in Gao Xing you like?”
Ah Nian’s face turned red and white “No one can match up to Zhuan Xu gege.”
Xiao Yao sighed again and patted the seat next to her “Little sister, come here.”
Ah Nian actually docilely sat down next to Xiao Yao “You are my little sister so I actually don’t want you to like Zhuan Xu.”
Xiao Yao thought Ah Nian would fly into a rage but Ah Nian sat there in silence. Xiao Yao said “I’ll be honest with you, back then Zhuan Xu was acting but it’s a reality that he has a lot of women in his life. I already know three, and the ones I don’t even know about, I’m sure are out there.”
Ah Nian said in a low voice “I heard a bit, he has two exquisite maids beside him that he’ll take as concubines eventually.”
“Not just those women! Later when a woman likes him or wants to follow him and is of help to him, and he doesn’t dislike them, he’ll accept them all” Xiao Yao chuckled sadly “Actually I’m wrong! If she’s of use to him, even if he dislikes her, he’ll still accept her.”
Ah Nian stared at Xiao Yao in confusion and Xiao Yao explained “When our Dad rejected taking an Empress from one of the Gao Xing four tribes, other than you and I, no one else in Gao Xing was happy with Dad’s decision. Actually, if Dad had done so, then there wouldn’t even have been the Five Prince Rebellion in the first place! To quell the rebellion so many lives were lost and so many families impacted. Many still hold a grudge against Dad. If Zhuan Xu was Dad, he wouldn’t have rejected taking that Empress because sometimes having one woman can lessen a conflict. Fewer people need to die and a battle can be avoided. How do you think Zhuan Xu will choose going forward?”
Ah Nian’s mouth dropped open but she couldn’t say anything.
Xiao Yao sighed “I actually don’t like Zhuan Xu like this. But because I lived in the world for hundreds of years as a normal person so I support Zhuan Xu’s decision to better the world. This is what it means for One to Suffer, the World to Better.”
Ah Nian was silent but her eyes were filled with sadness.
Xiao Yao said “Little sister, I don’t want you to like Zhuan Xu. Have Dad pick a husband for you in Gao Xing and forget him.”
Ah Nian’s tears fell “I want to forget him! But I’ve known him from the moment I was born. My mom is deaf and mute and dad is always busy with work. I talked late when I was small so people thought I was deaf and mute too. But he never lost patience with me, always telling me over and over to call him Gege. To coax me to talk, he mimicked bird sounds. When people mocked my mom behind her back, I would hide in the corner and cry but he encouraged me to fight back. Even when he left home he would always remember to send me a present every year. From young until now, he’s the only one by my side. All my memories contain him. How do you want me to forget? How can I find a man now who knows me as well, understands all my likes and dislikes. Even if he gives me just one tenth of himself, it’s better than another man giving me one hundred percent of himself.”
Ah Nian wiped her tears away “I know you mean well and really see me as your little sister which is why you said all this to me. But I tried for forty years to forget him but I can’t do it! I thought about it over and over and finally realized that in this world, other than dad, what man doesn’t have many wives. Even if Zhuan Xu gege has other women, as long as he’s always good to me, then I care about nothing else.”
Xiao Yao was filled with pity and anger “You, you, why can’t you be more hard with yourself? It’s just leaving one man, how can you not go on with life? It’s just like a cut on the heart in pain.”
Ah Nian cried “I’m not like you and Dad! I don’t have your strength to cut the heart and still smile and live life. All I know is that if I lost Zhuan Xu gege, everyday no matter what I do I won’t be happy. I would rather die!”
“You’re making Dad really pained to see you like this.”
Ah Nian wiped her years “Dad knows, otherwise how else would I know about the other women around Zhuan Xu gege. Dad’s servant told me and also said Zhuan Xu gege will marry Sheng Nong Xing Yue. I know Dad is doing this to end my hopes but I told Dad I can’t ever forget him!”
Xiao Yao was in disbelief. Never forgetting? With the long lives of the Gods, how can one never forget another?
Ah Nian begged “Jiejie (older sister), other than my mom and our dad, only you can help me! Jiejie, help me please!”
Xing Yue also called Xiao Yao jiejie once, but Ah Nian’s one “jiejie” totally twisted Xiao Yao’s heart into a knot and she racked her brains but had nothing to dissuade Ah Nian. Xiao Yao wearily said “I’ll talk to Dad, you go wait.”
“I’ll wait for you here.”
Xiao Yao had no choice but to see the Grand Emperor immediately.
She found him standing right outside her residence by the water tree.
Xiao Yao walked over and put her hand behind her back and looked up at the Grand Emperor “Dad, you knew I would come see you?”
“Ah Nian wants to go to Sheng Nong Mountain with you?”
The Grand Emperor looked up at the endless starry skies “Xiao Yao, should I let Ah Nian go?”
Xiao Yao said “In forty years, I believed Dad you tried your best but the result is as you see. If we object Ah Nian won’t listen. Dad, if you want to stop her then you need to use the hard way. If you want to force her to marry another man, then you can do it. But can you bear doing it?”
Looking at the constellations in the sky, the Grand Emperor vividly remembered taking someone with him up into the Heavens to view the constellations and said “Your mother and I was a political marriage. Before you two grew up, I already decided that I don’t want my daughters to experience the same pain your mom went through. I will never use your marriage for political gain, and I won’t force your marriage in any way. I will let you be with the man you love.”
Xiao Yao felt her heart ache and she purposely looked at the stars to quell her tears “Dad, I said all sorts of bad things about Zhuan Xu to Ah Nian to try and change her mind. But speaking candidly, even if you picked a husband for Ah Nian you can’t guarantee he will be good to her for her entire life. You can’t guarantee he really likes her and isn’t doing it because of your influence. You can’t guarantee that after he marries Ah Nian he won’t fall for another woman.”
The Grand Emperor stiffly said “I can’t guarantee his heart but I can guarantee his character.”
Xiao Yao laughed “Haven’t Dad you heard of sneaking around, the more you try to control the more sneaking will be done. What’s the point of getting a guy like that. I kinda understand Ah Nian now, a real man with character and drive, a guy like Ru So, he doesn’t want to marry Ah Nian. The ones who want her can’t match up to Zhuan Xu. He watched Ah Nian grow up and truly loves her without any additional reason. Ah Nian seems clueless but she sees the important stuff, she knows which guy is really good to her. What she said just now is right, compared to any of those guys giving her everything, she would rather have just a part of Zhuan Xu.”
The Grand Emperor was silent and then asked “Xiao Yao, do you think Ah Nian will be happy with Zhuan Xu?” He controlled the lives of countless but he was truly uncertain about his daughters future.
“Ah Nian doesn’t want to be his only, she just wants Zhuan Xu to be good to her for the rest of her life. I believe in Gege, and his feelings for Ah Nian since they grew up together. Ah Nian should be happy, even though it’s not a happiness I can accept. Just like I see Consort Jing An and don’t think that is happiness, but to her she is happy. What is happiness really? It’s merely a person getting what he or she wants, even if in the eyes of others it’s completely worthless.”
The Grand Emperor smiled wanly “You’re mocking your own dad?”
Xiao Yao stuck her tongue out “Your majesty please forgive. Dad, since Ah Nian can’t forget him in forty years, its only made her remember more about Zhuan Xu’s good. Let her go see for herself and live what it’s like to see other women around Zhuan Xu. Let her suffer and perhaps she’ll actually give him up that way.”
The Grand Emperor thought and said “Take Ah Nian to Sheng Nong Mountain! Without looking after her, I feel better.”
Xiao Yao got on tippy toes to ease the furrowed brow of her dad “Dad, Ah Nian isn’t alone, we have you behind us! No matter who she marries, that person won’t mistreat her! The person who ought to be worried now isn’t you, it’s Zhuan Xu!”
The Grand Emperor smiled “You! Don’t worry about lessening our worries and keep all your worries inside!”
Xiao Yao smiled “Dad don’t worry about me. I’m different than Ah Nian, I’ll be fine.”
The Grand Emperor sighed, because Xiao Yao was so different than Ah Nian, he didn’t know how to start worrying about her, which was what worried him the most.
At dawn Xiao Yao and Ah Nian set off for Sheng Nong Mountain.
Xiao Yao mischievous streak came out and ordered no one to tell Zhuan Xu, and even Miao Pu didn’t know Ah Nian was coming as well until they departed.
It was dusk by the time they arrived and there had been a fresh snow storm a few days ago so the entire Zhi Jin Court was covered in glittery white snow. Zhuan Xu worried Xiao Yao was dressed too lightly so when he heard her cloud carriage arrive he rushed outside with a ermine cloak waiting for her. He saw the cloud carriage descend and rushed over, but the door opened and two equally exquisite girls jumped off simultaneously and yelled “Gege!”
Zhuan Xu froze and didn’t know who to put the cloak on.
Xiao Yao smiled and ran across the snow into the court chamber where Xiao Xiao had another cloak and Xiao Yao wrapped herself snugly in it before peering outside.
Zhuan Xu put the cloak around Ah Nian “Knowing it’s dead of Winter in the Middle Plains, how come you’re not wearing warmer clothes?”
Ah Nian’s eyes were red rimmed “Gege, I left without saying goodbye because I misunderstood you. Aren’t you angry at me?”
Zhuan Xu smiled and scraped her nose “If I’m angry at you for that then I’ll already have angered myself to death by you! Hurry inside, it’s freezing out here.”
Zhuan Xu led Ah Nian inside and said “The plum blossoms on the mountain top are all blooming, I’ll take you to see. It’s more beautiful than the plum blossoms I planted for you in Qing Shui Town.
Ah Nian smiled “A present from Gege was a plum blossom vase which looked like it was drawn by you. Was it a plum blossom from this mountain?”
“You guessed right. One time I saw a beautiful one and remembered that you like plum blossoms so painted it and have it made into a vase.”
Ah Nian was so happy “I figured you weren’t coming back to Gao Xing anytime soon so I dug out the wine we buried in the bamboo forest and brought it here.”
Ah Nian was dim and wan in Gao Xing, but right now she was like a flower blooming after a rain shower, sparkling with life. Xiao Yao thought that no matter what happened in the future, at least Ah Nian was happy now. Perhaps this was why Ah Nian refused to give up.
After dinner, Xiao Yao used the excuse of being tired to head back to her room and let Zhuan Xu spend time with Ah Nian. She had not seen him in over forty years and would obviously like to be alone with him.
Xiao Yao bathed and Shan Hu was drying her hair when Xiao Xiao came in with a jug of wine “This is the wine the Second Princess brought, His highness asked me to bring it for Princess.”
Xiao Yao laughed “This is the wine Gege made years ago? Put it there, I’ll drink it in a bit.”
Xiao Yao leaned against the pallet and slowly drank the wine and sighed.
“Who are you sighing for? Who are you worried about?” Zhuan Xu parted the veil and walked inside.
“Where’s Ah Nian?”
“Passed out drunk, Hai Tang took her to rest.”
Xiao Yao smiled “What? You want to drink some more with me?”
Zhuan Xu sat at the end of the pallet and poured himself a cup “Why did you bring Ah Nian?”
“She wanted to see you, I let her follow.”
“What else is there?”
“I remember you told me to stay away from Ah Nian.”
“Even if she’s my little sister, I have no right to make her decisions.”
Zhuan Xu smiled bitterly “What do you mean by this?”
Xiao Yao smiled wickedly “Just remember that Ah Nian is your Master’s daughter and my little sister.”
Zhuan Xu held his forehead and pain “I have so much things to deal with, now is not the time for Ah Nian to be here.”
Xiao Yao waved her hands like she can’t help so it’s all his problem now.
Zhuan Xu said “Tu Shan Jing is at Little Zhu Rong’s residence. When are you going to see him?”
“I’ll go tomorrow, I want to go to Qing Qiu with him to see the Grand Madam and make more medicine for her. I’ll be back in a week or so, take care of Ah Nian for me.”
Zhuan Xu held his wine and grinned at Xiao Yao until she couldn’t take it anymore “Is he well these days?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “You want me to tell you?”
Zhuan Xu said “After you left, he came about ten days later to see you and learned you went back to Gao Xing. His face darkened and I guaranteed you would come back before he relaxed a bit. But recently he’s been odd, Xing Yue says he spends all night pacing in the Evergreen residence and likes to bath and change often.”
“Bath? Change clothes?” Xiao Yao remembered when Fang Feng Yi Yang hugged him that time, he changed afterwards before seeing her.
Zhuan Xu said “I see Jing won’t end the engagement while the Grand Madam is still alive and will wait until she’s dead. Actually I can’t figure Tu Shan Jing out. Feng Long seems smart and bold, but I can control him because I know what he wants. Tu Shan Jing seems mild and gentle but he’s like creek water, impossible to grasp and hold. I can’t rein him. He appears to really want to be with you but he does nothing concrete. To get the Fang Feng clan to end the engagement, there are ways to force it!”
Xiao Yao glared “Is the Fang Feng family causing trouble for you so you want Jing to take them out?”
Zhuan Xu yelled back “I’m upset for you!”
Xiao Yao said “I get your point, as long as Fang Feng Yi Yang’s life and death doesn’t matter, then there is a way to end the engagement and even get rid of her. Once she’s dead, the wedding is off. But the engagement was set by Jing’s mom and grandmother, Fang Feng Yi Yang just wants to be the clan leader’s wife and hasn’t done anything really bad to Jing. Honestly, if Jing was like you and was hardhearted enough to decide on the plan to kill Fang Feng Yi Yang to end the engagement, then I would actually leave him. Men like you make decisive and hard decisions, so attractive to the world, but I’m just an ordinary woman and I wanted a companion for the rest of my life. Life is long and so many things can happen, I believe only a kind person can be good to me for my entire life. Even if I make a mistake he will accept me. I don’t believe a hardhearted person to the world will make me an exception, I’m neither that confident nor that self-absorbed.”
Zhuan Xu angrily tossed his cup down and turned to leave “Fine, I’m hardhearted, then you quickly leave me!”
Xiao Yao quickly grabbed him “You’re the only exception.”
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao and she smiled and shook his arm “You’re the only exception in the whole wide world.”
Zhuan Xu was expressionless and Xiao Yao buried her face in his waist and murmured “Because I know you will let me do whatever I want, that’s why I say whatever I want to you.”
Zhuan Xu sat down and grabbed a lock of Xiao Yao’s hair “Xiao Yao”, his head was lowered and he stared at the lock of hair twined around the palm of his hand.
Xiao Yao raised her head to look at him “What?”
Zhuan Xu said “I hope Jing deserves the feelings you give him!”
Xiao Yao smiled and sighed “I hope so, too. I tell myself not to hope but who really doesn’t hope. On Five Gods Mountain, I frequently thought of him.”
Zhuan Xu put down the lock of hair and smiled “Tomorrow you can go see Jing so get some rest early!”
He got up and took Xiao Yao’s cup away before calling “Shan Hu, assist the Princess to retire.”