This is the chapter in Lost You Forever where the shit hits the fan for Xiao Yao and Jing. It’s high time these two faced the enormity of the pressures against them getting together rather than stubbornly cling to the hope that Jing can just somehow make it happen. I think Jing’s intelligence is no less than Zhuan Xu or Xiang Liu, but he lacks the ruthlessness of the other two and that is exactly what he needs to overcome his grandmother and Fang Feng Yi Yang plotting against him. I know Xiao Yao loves Jing especially for his kindness, but that kindness served them well when he was just Ye Shi Qi but as Tu Shan Jing he has the weight of two powerful forces tugging at him. On on side is familial duty to one of the most powerful clans and the other is his love to be with a princess so lofty in position that even his position in life is merely good enough for her. I’m not asking Jing to suddenly grow some balls but he does need to make a choice one way or the other rather than just standing in place. This leaves other people making things happen for him, and later on in the novel it’ll become clearer and clearer that Jing is the elusive safety net for Xiao Yao that requires others around her to make happen for her.
By this time in the story bratty Ah Nian is really becoming an endearing thing to have around for Xiao Yao. She’s really growing into being Xiao Yao’s little sister in every way especially in how annoying she can be paired with real sisterly affection. Xiao Yao needs family more than romantic love and might even be content if to be spinster even her family never left her side. But she’s too darn special and easy to love it’s no wonder three amazing men love her even if they aren’t fighting over it. I still can’t get over the glimpses we see of how much Xiang Liu does for her without ever revealing it and asking nothing in return. Scouring the world for the most rare items and having the best bow forged for her is a present as perfect as their thirty-seven years spent in that clam shell. Every time Xiao Yao is with Xiang Liu or Bei, it feels like an escape for her from the real world problems. The concern is that it’s fleeting because Xiang Liu had already pledged his life to General Gong Gong even before he met Xiao Yao. So even if she loses Jing, there isn’t another guy around that can give her the unreserved commitment she wants.
Chapter 25 – Suddenly Hear the Sorrowful Wind Tune:
In the morning, Xiao Yao took Shan Hu and Miao Pu and left Sheng Nong Mountain.
She had another task in mind and used the excuse of needing to buy some items to shop around on the street before finally diverting her maids to allow her to sneak into the Tu Shan clan messenger store. She handed over a wooden box to the shop owner to ask him to deliver to Qing Shui Town
It was all poisons Xiao Yao made, and even though Xiang Liu already asked Zhuan Xu for payment of her “medical bills”, but it was her life that he saved. In the three months Xiao Yao was at Five Gods Mountain, she rifled through all the rare herbs and medicines stored there and created a lot of poisons to thank Xiang Liu.
After she paid the bill and left the store, she saw the street was filled with stores and lots of people were busy with their business. She couldn’t help but smile, having experienced so much separation and heartache, every time she saw such simple bustling life she felt happy even if it had nothing to do with her.
As she looked around, she saw a familiar figure.
Fang Feng Bei was riding a winged horse through the crowds, his expression gentle with a smile on his lips, just like any regular son of a rich family.
Xiao Yao was rooted in place and watched him come closer to her through the dense thrum of bustling ordinary life. Even knowing it was hopeless, she still fervently wished that this ordinary world could keep him in it.
Fang Feng Bei stopped before her and asked with a smile “You’re back?”
Xiao Yao smiled back “I’m back.”
The two of them, one asked and the other answered, as if they really were next door neighbors or close friends, but Xiao Yao distinctly remembered their last parting in front of the gambling den. He was filled with angry intensity while she bolted like a frightened rabbit.
Fang Feng Bei asked “Have you been seriously practicing archery?”
“Getting a second chance at life, do I dare slack off? I practice every day.”
Fang Feng Bei nodded and added “There can never be enough skills that can protect a life.”
Xiao Yao asked “How long are you in Zhi Yi for? Do you have time to teach me archery? I got a great bow from the Jin Tian family and wanted to show it to you.”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “Coincidence is better than scheduling, how about now?”
Xiao Yao thought and knew she could get to Qing Qiu in half an hour plus another day to get the Grand Madam her pills would be fine “Sure!”
Fang Feng Bei vaulted back on the winged horse and Xiao Yao grabbed his hand and vaulted on in front of him.
Miao Pu and Shan Hu arrived and Xiao Yao waved to them “Wait for me at Little Zhu Rong’s residence” and then they were off without any regard to the two maids hollering and hopping. In a moment she and Fang Feng Bei were gone.
The winged horse stopped at a remote canyon and it was the place Xiao Yao and Fang Feng Bei used to practice archery.
Fang Feng Bei asked “Your bow?”
Xiao Yao opened her hand and a silver bow appeared in her palm.
Fang Feng Bei squinted to carefully check it out and then nodded “Not bad!”
Xiao Yao asked “What do you want me to shoot?”
Fang Feng Bei plucked some leaves and tossed it into the air, the leaves turned into a green bird and under his powerful direction, the bird flew into the air and disappeared into the clouds,
Fang Feng Bei said “I just used a third power.”
Xiao Yao calmed her heart and pulled back her bow, with a whoosh her arrow flew out and a green bird fell from the sky.
Fang Feng Bei reached out his hand and the bird dropped in his hand, the silver arrow pierced it right in the heart.
Xiao Yao smiled “Master, are you pleased with your disciple?”
Fang Feng Bei smiled at Xiao Yao “I’ve always been pleased with you as my disciple.”
Xiao Yao blushed and glared “I was talking about archery!”
Fang Feng Bei looked all innocent “I was also talking about archery! What did you assume I was talking about?”
Xiao Yao was exasperated and said “I can’t win any argument with you, I can’t win any fight with you, so there is nothing I would dare assume!”
Fang Feng Bei took the bow from Xiao Yao’s hand and inspected it “If just for fun, this is enough, but if you want to kill a person, you need to be more hardhearted.”
Xiao Yao smiled “This weapon’s entire purpose is to kill. I plan to smear the arrow in poison so that once it’s released, it’s surefire death.”
Fang Feng Bei handed the bow back with a smile “Congratulations, you’ve graduated.”
The bow vanished in a silver light and disappeared into Xiao Yao’s arm “I graduated?”
“Your power is low but for your archery to get to this level it’s already the top. You’ve mastered everything I can teach you. From now on, you don’t need to learn archery from me anymore.”
Xiao Yao’s heart shook and suddenly she felt so adrift and lost. It was a joking offer between them tens of years ago, but as time passed in a blink, they were standing here now and so much had happened.
Fang Feng Bei laughed “What” You’re going to miss me being your Master?”
Xiao Yao glared “I was thinking that since I graduated, shouldn’t you get me a graduation present?”
Fang Feng Bei furrowed his brows and sighed and said with sadness “A long time ago I wanted to give you a bow when you mastered archery. But now you have a great bow already, so I won’t need to give it to you.”
Xiao Yao snarked “I highly doubt you would be willing to spend money to buy me a good bow.”
Fang Feng Bei stared at the silver crescent moon mark on Xiao Yao’s arm and smiled but said nothing.
Xiao Yao solemnly bowed “Thank you for teaching me archery.”
Fang Feng Bei lazily laughed “This archery technique is a Fang Feng family secret, giving it to you, I don’t feel bad at all. Years ago I said I would teach you archery if you played with me. The only thing I spent was my time, and the only payment you gave was your time. This was a very fair transaction.”
“Each transaction is so clear for you, clearly you never get taken advantage of!”
Fang Feng Bei smiled and stared “Do you want to take advantage of me?”
Xiao Yao mocked herself “I can’t out wit all nine of you heads, I’m happy to have an even deal between us.”
Fang Feng Bei stared a the clouds in the distance for a few moments before speaking “Today I didn’t teach you archery but since we’re out already, spend the rest of the day with me as a thank you for your master!”
Xiao Yao said “Sure!”
Xiao Yao and Fang Feng Bei came back in the late afternoon together.
Miao Pu and Shan Hu saw her and relaxed. Xiao Yao leaped off the winged horse and waved goodbye to Fang Feng Bei and entered the Little Zhu Rong residence.
Xing Yue accompanied Xiao Yao to the Evergreen Residence and waited for Jing Ye to open the door. Xing Yue sat to Xiao Yao “I won’t entertain you guys.”
Xiao Yao said “Coming and going, we already see your home as our home. Don’t worry about me, I’ll head straight to Qing Qiu with Jing later.”
Xing Yue smiled “Sure, say hi to the Grand Madam on behalf of me and Gege.”
Jing Ye led Xiao Yao inside the room “Master, the Princess is here.”
Jing stood before the table and quietly stared at Xiao Yao, his eyes reflecting a quiet control.
Xiao Yao’s heart twinged and felt like he was a bit off. She asked “What? Don’t welcome me? The Grand Madam’s pills are almost done so let’s go to Qing Qiu!”
Jing appeared to snap out of it and walked over wanting to embrace Xiao Yao but hesitated and only took her hand.
Xiao Yao smiled “Let’s go!”
“Yes.” Jing pulled Xiao Yao out the door. The two got in a cloud carriage and Jing remained strangely quiet.
Xiao Yao thought it was about her leaving for Gao Xing without saying goodbye and explained “I went to Gao Xing alone to help me think. We’ve been forced along by situations and I wanted you to have time to think clearly. Plus I needed to spend some time with my dad.”
Jing said in a low voice “Xiao Yao.”
“Yes, I’m here.”
Xiao Yao stared at him quizzically but Jing said nothing more.
They arrived at Qing Qiu at dusk and Jing took Xiao Yao to greet the Grand Madam.
They entered the Grand Madam’s courtyard and there were a row of bird cages in the corridor and inside some canaries were napping.
A very alert and energetic canary was sitting on the Grand Madam’s shoulder and she was feeding it spiritual nuts. It ate one and happily chirped. It saw Jing and Xiao Yao come in and appeared to know they were going to discuss important matters so it nudged the Grand Madam’s hand and chirped a few times before flying out the window.
Xiao Yao smiled “That little thing doesn’t need a cage anymore.”
The Grand Madam smiled “It’s so smart, it knows I have nuts for it and we treat it all like precious treasures so none of them want to leave.”
Xiao Yao took the Grand Madam’s pulse and the Grand Madam said “No need to take my pulse, I know I am doing well. In the past when I slept I didn’t like bird calls disrupting my sleep, but now when I hear the canaries call I sleep even more restfully.”
Xiao Yao said to Se Mai Er “You’ve been taking good care of the Grand Madam. I’ll need another bowl of your blood.”
Se Mai Er reverently bowed to Xiao Yao “This is what I ought to do.”
Hou said to Xiao Yao “All the supplies are ready.”
Xiao Yao said to everyone “To make the medicine I need to get a good night’s rest. I’ll be off now.”
The Grand Madam said “The Princess needs to rest so no one go bother her!”
Xiao Yao had dinner and then went to sleep.
The next day she woke up and inspected all the supplies and checked that everything was prepared. She had the maids summon Se Mai Er and Doctor Hu Zhen and had him take a bowl of Se Mai Er’s blood.
Like last time, Xiao Yao spent seven days and nights making the medicine and made one hundred pills. But this time she had Hu Zhen watch everything and since he knew medicine and was very bright, he learned the technique from her completely after seven days. Next time Hu Zhen could independently make the pills for the Grand Madam.
Hu Zhen thanked Xiao Yao, as a doctor spending the last seven days with Xiao Yao he learned more than just how to make one medicine.
It was nighttime by the time the medicine was ready and Xiao Yao had Shan Nu pack it into bottles. Xiao Yao was exhausted and skipped dinner to just head to bed.
It was noon by the time she woke up and the first thing she said was “I’m so hungry.”
Shan Hu and Miao Pu quickly brought out breakfast and Xiao Yao wolfed it down and then rested before saying to Shan Hu “Prepare a bath.”
After soaking her body in the herb water did Xiao Yao regain her energy. Miao Pu sat beside her and said “Princess.”
“I saw Fang Feng Yi Yang go to Master Jing’s residence but Jing Ye was cold and blocked the door and wouldn’t even let her in. She didn’t even give her any face and she likely dared be so rude because Master Jing told her to. Thank god Master Jing has finally put his foot down!”
Xiao Yao smiled “Some things, if it’s meant to be yours then it’s yours, if it’s not then staring isn’t going to keep it there.”
Miao Pu pursed her lips and said nothing more.
Xiao Yao got dressed and did her hair and then took the pills to see the Grand Madam.
Jing, Hou, Yi Yang, and Lan Mu were all there talking with the Grand Madam.
Xiao Yao handed the pulls over and Hou asked “Can’t you make more?” Hou didn’t trust Xiao Yao and having the Grand Madam rely on Xiao Yao for the pills made him feel like Xiao Yao had something on her.
Xiao Yao casually explained “With the Tu Shan clan wealth you can get whatever medicinal supplies you need. But you can’t take too much blood from Se Mai Er. One bowl every three months is the limit. If you take more her blood will thin and the medicine brewed will not be as effective. If the Grand Madam ingests it then it won’t suppress the pain. Se Mai Er’s body needs to be in optimal health so that her blood drawn is at its best.”
Actually Xiao Yao’s explanation she just made up, she didn’t trust Hou and the Grand Madam either and was worried they would hurt Se Mai Er to get her blood, so what she said was meant to keep them in line. Hou and the Grand Madam didn’t know any voodoo so they had to somewhat believe Xiao Yao and couldn’t afford to discount what she said.
Xiao Yao changed the subject “I taught Hu Zhen how to make the pills so later when I can’t come, he can make it for the Grand Madam.”
The Grand Madam and Hou were astonished, they couldn’t believe Xiao Yao would teach Hu Zhen the method. Even normal medical teachings was worth a lot of money, much less a medical technique that could extend the life and lessen the pain of the Grand Madam of the Tu Shan clan.
Hou summoned Hu Zhen and asked “The Princess said you can make the pills yourself. Is that true?”
Hu Zhen answered “It’s true, thanks to the Princess teaching so patiently.”
The Grand Madam watched Hu Zhen grow up and knew his personality was reliable and careful, otherwise she wouldn’t have entrusted him to care for the unconscious Jing years ago. The Grand Madam was reassured and had him leave.
The Grand Madam smiled at Xiao Yao “Princess you are royalty and the medicine making process is so arduous, having you also have to come here, I feel really imposing.”
Xiao Yao acted like she didn’t understand the subtext and smiled “It’s hard so thankfully Hu Zhen learned it.”
Jing stared at the smart and aware Xiao Yao and felt his heart ache. He knew what his grandmother meant by that, she was an old woman who was at the end of her life and he simply couldn’t castigate her.
Xiao Yao sat for a bit and was about to bid farewell to the Grand Madam and head back to Sheng Nong Mountain by dinnertime. She was about to open her mouth when she saw Yi Yang standing by the pallet suddenly wobble like she was about to pitch over.
Xiao Yao yelled “Hurry help her…” but before she finished speaking Yi Yang had collapsed in a faint on the ground.
The Grand Madam called out “Hurry, hurry…..”
The maids put Yi Yang on the pallet and called “Doctor, get the doctor!”
Yi Yang regained consciousness and tried to sit up “I’m fine, likely didn’t sleep well last night and got a little bit woozy.” She sat up and then promptly threw up on the maids.
Before the doctor arrived the Grand Madam asked Xiao Yao “Princess, can you please check first.”
Xiao Yao walked to the pallet and put her finger on Yi Yang’s wrist and a second later her face changed. She wobbled herself as if she was going to collapse and the maid propped her up.
The Grand Madam anxiously asked “What is it? Is it serious?”
Xiao Yao took a deep breath and sat on the pallet with the maid’s assistance. She controlled her emotions and took Yi Yang’s pulse again. A moment later she pulled her hand back and walked to the side. She hid her shaking hand in her sleeve and even felt her legs were trembling, but she forced a smile and casually said “Miss Fang Feng is expecting.”
The entire room turned silent in an instant, so silent a leaf dropping could be heard. Everyone’s expression was odd, expecting was a happy occasion, but unmarried and expecting was not.
The Grand Madam spoke first and asked Yi Yang “You and Jing…..”
Fang Feng Yi Yang glanced at Jing and her face turned beet red and her tears fell “Grandmother please forgive Jing….it’s not his fault…..it’s all my fault! It’s my being stupid…..:
She pretty much confirmed that the baby was Jing’s with that and everyone’s expression lightened. Unmarried pregnancy might be embarrassing but the Grand Madam was at the end of her life and having a great-grandchild was of utmost importance.
The Grand Madam grabbed Yi Yang’s hand and her happiness was all over her face “I can die without regret now! I can die without regret now!”
Yi Yang kept her head lowered and kept crying and saying shamefully “I….I….I didn’t have the face to tell Grandmother.”
The Grand Madam looked at Yi Yang like a treasure “It’s not your fault! It’s my fault! Because of my health I didn’t force the wedding sooner. Don’t worry, I’ll have the elders prepare the wedding immediately.”
All the maids started congratulating the Grand Madam while Xiao Yao stared at Jing and saw his expression was full of despair with his face stark white in pain.
Xiao Yao smiled, she initially had a bit of hope that the child had nothing to do with Jing.
Everyone in the room gathered around the pallet so Xiao Yao turned and walked out. No one noticed her leaving other than Jing and he appeared to want to say something but no words came out.
Miao Pu and Shan Hu saw Xiao Yao walked out with a smile as if she was in a good mood.
Miao Pu asked happily “Princess, anything good happened?”
Xiao Yao said “Back to Sheng Nong Mountain.”
The maids replied “Yes!”
The three of them got in a cloud carriage and returned to Sheng Nong Mountain. Miao Pu asked “Princess, I heard a lot of chatter in the Grand Madam’s room, what happened?”
Xiao Yao smiled as if she didn’t hear it and Miao Pu asked again “Princess?”
Xiao Yao looked at her and smiled “What?”
Miao Pu shook her head “Nothing. Princess, are you….okay?”
Xiao Yao laughed “Me? I’m fine!”
Shan Hu and Miao Pu felt Xiao Yao appeared fine but was strangely happy in a way that made them feel totally weird.
It was nighttime when they returned to Zhi Jin Palace.
Ah Nian saw Xiao Yao and ran out all pouting “Jiejie, you have to help me! Zhuan Xu gege took me to see the plum blossoms and Xing Yue tagged along. She acts like Gege’s wife in front of me, like she’s my sister-in-law. She appears polite to me but secretly she’s always undermining me! She keeps talking about this clan and that clan and Zhuan Xu gege talks to her so he doesn’t have time for me. I listen beside him but Xing Yue tells me this stuff is boring and tells me to go elsewhere to play and I don’t need to keep her company. Who the hell was keeping her company! Zhuan Xu gege actually took her side and told me to go play! Jiejie help me get rid of Xing Yue! Before coming to Sheng Nong Mountain I said it was fine if Gege has other women” Ah Nian stomped her foot “But that doesn’t include Xing Yue. Other than Xing Yue, I can accept anyone else!”
Xiao Yao smiled and staggered off to her room.
Ah Nian shook Xiao Yao’s arm “Jiejie, jiejie, are you going to help me?”
Zhuan Xu walked out and saw Ah Nian pleading with Xiao Yao and smiled at the cuteness, but he immediately sensed something was off. Xiao Yao was as dazed as a wooden doll and Ah Nian was tugging her to the point that Xiao Yao was about to fall over. He cried out “Ah Nian, let go….”
Before he finished saying it, Xiao Yao’s body pitched forward and Zhuan Xu flew up to catch her in his arms and Xiao Yao spit up blood on Zhuan Xu’s collar.
Zhuan Xu immediately picked Xiao Yao up in his arms and rushed inside the court while yelling “Bring the doctor!”
Ah Nian was stunned and followed behind Zhuan Xu and anxiously tried to explain “I didn’t use force.” But her frustration with Xing Yue, now she wasn’t so sure “Maybe…..I used a little.”
Zhuan Xu carefully placed Xiao Yao on the pallet and she used her sleeve to wipe the blood from her lip and smiled “Don’t worry, this is a congealed blood clot on my heart, it’s better to spit it out.”
Xiao Xiao brought the doctor and rushed there but Xiao Yao said “Really no need!”
Zhuan Xu glared at her and Xiao Yao had no choice but to hand her wrist to the doctor and after he examined her he signed to Zhuan Xu.
Ah Nian read the sign language and explained to Xiao Yao “He said you are suddenly so distraught that your spirit couldn’t move through your body, but to keep your sorrow tamped down it caused harm to your heart and what you spit out was a congealed blood clot on your heart. It’s better now and you have to rest well in the coming days and not to have wild mood swings.”
Zhuan Xu had the doctor leave and Ah Nian asked “Jiejie, what happened? Who caused even someone like you to be so sad?”
Xiao Yao smiled “Someone like me? As if I don’t have a heart.”
Zhuan Xu said “It’s just us three in this room, if you can’t even smile then stop forcing a smile for others to see!”
Xiao Yao smiled “It’s not smiling for others, it’s just a habit because I can’t cry. Because life is just like this, cry one day, laugh one day, since I have to live it no matter what, it’s better to live it with a smile. People like smiles, no one likes tears.”
Zhuan Xu felt his heart ache while Ah Nian seemed to understand something and stared at Xiao Yao in a daze.
Zhuan Xu asked “Do you want dinner?”
Xiao Yao smiled bitterly “I actually can’t eat right now so give me some soup and leave it there! I’ll drink it when I’m hungry. You guys go eat. I’ll sleep and it’ll be better.”
Zhuan Xu dragged Ah Nian out and said to Shan Hu “Look after the Princess well.” He glanced at Miao Pu and she immediately followed Zhuan Xu.
Xiao Yao took a sleeping pill and drowsily fell asleep.
In the middle of the night, Xiao Yao woke up but was in discomfort and couldn’t get up because her body felt weak.
Zhuan Xu was resting in the outside room and immediately woke up and rushed inside. He helped Xiao Yao sit up and wrapped her in a coat before handing the still warm soup to her. Xiao Yao sipped the soup and felt her chest relax a bit.
Zhuan Xu touched her forehead “A bit feverish but the doctor said your constitution is unique so don’t take medicine yet but drink more liquids. What’s most important is that you remain calm and peaceful.”
Xiao Yao leaned back against the pillow and asked “Why are you outside keeping watch? Aren’t there maids left in Zhi Jin Palace?”
“I’m worried about you.”
“I’m fine, from small until now what haven’t I experienced? Will I really go die because of a man?”
“Yes, you’re totally fine because the person who spit up blood was totally not you.”
“Don’t make it sound so serious. I’ll be fine in a few days.”
“I asked Miao Pu and she said you went to deliver medicine to the Grand Madam and everything was fine, but when you left her residence everything was off. What happened?”
Xiao Yao said “I want to go back to sleep?”
Zhuan Xu pushed “You want to keep it even from me?” The doctor said Xiao Yao’s personality was to control everything and push it down so it was better for her to discuss it rather than hide it inside.
Xiao Yao smiled and sighed “I’m not trying to hide it from you, it’s just that it’s nothing big so not worth discussing.”
Zhuan Xu felt like needles were pricking his heart, many times he told himself that it wasn’t a big deal: when his mom committed suicide it wasn’t a big deal since everyone’s mom dies eventually; his uncle wanted to kill him and it wasn’t a big deal since everyone had bad relatives…..
Zhuan Xu softly asked “What happened?
Xiao Yao laughed “Just that Fang Feng Yi Yang suddenly fainted and I diagnosed that she is pregnant.”
Zhuan Xu grew silent and after a few months he snarked “You mean that Fang Feng Yi Yang who sent an arrow through my chest? She suddenly fainted?”
“Of course she could have fainted on purpose, but being pregnant is real.”
“I can only estimate about three months about. The actual date of conception only Fang Feng Yi Yang and…..Jing know.”
“It really is Jing’s child?” It wasn’t that Zhuan Xu believed Jing would remain chaste out of love for Xiao Yao, it was that his royal uncles were sharpening their swords right behind him and he didn’t want Fang Feng Yi Yang to cement her position in the Tu Shan clan at this critical juncture.
“I didn’t ask him, but seeing his expression it’s likely his…..Yi Yang isn’t stupid, if it’s not Jing’s baby then she wouldn’t dare faint in public.” Xiao Yao laughed and said in derision “Who knew my leaving for Gao Xing would lead me to come back to find Jing having a baby.”
Zhuan Xu said “Don’t be sad, there are better men than Jing in the world.” Xiao Yao had tears in her eyes she tried to conceal and she forced a smile “I’m not sad because of him, I’m sad because I trusted the wrong person.”
Zhuan Xu acted like he didn’t see anything and smiled “Rest up now! Didn’t you say that it’ll be better in a few days. When you’re better, I’ll take you and Ah Nian down the mountain to play.”
Xiao Yao curled into the blanket and Zhuan Xu waved his hand and the lamp extinguished leaving only moonlight in the room.
Xiao Yao’s tears fell and she turned over so her back was to Zhuan Xu. She wiped her tears with her blanket “Gege, don’t leave.”
Zhuan Xu patted her back and said “I won’t leave, I’ll always stay with you.”
Even though Xiao Yao didn’t cry out loud, but as her tears fell her nose got stuffy and her labored breathing sound extra clear in the silence.
Zhuan Xu didn’t say anything and just sat at the head of the pallet and continued to gently pat Xiao Yao’s back.
The second day Xiao Yao got sicker and fell into a deep slumber.
Ah Nian saw that Xiao Yao was sick and put away her little girl attitudes and earnestly and sweetly helped Zhuan Xu take care of Xiao Yao. Zhuan Xu was very reassured since he knew that Ah Nian meant a lot to Xiao Yao so Ah Nian being nice to Xiao Yao would make Xiao Yao happy.
Jing heard Xiao Yao was sick and wanted to come see her. Xing Yue also wanted to come see Xiao Yao. Zhuan Xu declined them all. Because he spent every night in Xiao Yao’s room, and his secret guards would be stationed outside, even Jing’s little nine-tailed fox spirit couldn’t sneak in to find Xiao Yao.
Jing asked Feng Long to help him see Xiao Yao and Feng Long heard Fang Feng Yi Yang was pregnant and encouraged Jing to give up. But Jing was wasting away in mere days and Feng Long couldn’t bear it so brought Jing to go see Zhuan Xu.
Zhuan Xu saw Jing and showed no displeasure and instead warmly greeted both men with dinner.
Jing said “Please let me see Xiao Yao.”
Zhuan Xu said “Xiao Yao caught a cold recently and is not up to seeing guests.”
Jing said “I just want to see her once.”
Zhuan Xu was very polite “I’ll pass along your concern, but Xiao Yao….”
Feng Long cut him off annoyed at the beating around the bush “Cool it, everyone stop play-acting! You know about Jing and Xiao Yao’s situation! Fang Feng Yi Yang is pregnant and you and Xiao Yao must not be happy. But this is between Jing and Xiao Yao, even if Xiao Yao wants to break up with Jing, you ought to let Xiao Yao tell Jing directly.”
Zhuan Xu considered it and then said to Xiao Xiao “Go ask the Princess if she’s willing to see Jing.”
Xiao Xiao came back a few minutes later “The Princess asks the clan leader to come.”
Zhuan Xu said to Jing “Xiao Yao is willing to see you.”
Jing followed Xiao Xiao to Xiao Yao’s residence and when the door opened, a warm and medicinal air wafted out.
Shan Hu and Hai Tang were holding Spring flowers and discussing how to arrange it. When Shan Hu saw Jing, she rolled her eyes and coldly harrumphed.
Separated by a crystal partition, he could see Xiao Yao wearing a yellow robe laying on the pallet facing Ah Nian. The two of them had a crystal dish between them and Ah Nian was using her powers to conjure up an entire dish full of lilies and Xiao Yao was laughing at the trick.
Xiao Xiao and Miao Pu welcomed Jing in. Ah Nian smiled at Xiao Yao “Jiejie’s guest is here so I’ll come play with Jiejie later.”
Ah Nian nodded at Jing and then left.
Xiao Yao gestured to where Ah Nian was sitting and invited Jing in with a smile.
Xiao Yao’s face was pale white and her body wan, but she was wearing a warm yellow color and had on a bit of blush so she didn’t seem all that sick. She seemed more like a Spring flower that was facing the still cold late Winter air, a fragile kind of beauty rooted in steeliness to survive.
Jing’s heart churned in pain “Xiao Yao, I…..”
Xiao Yao silently stared at him and intently listened.
Jing said with great difficulty “Three months ago, the first time you gave Grandmother the pills, Yi Yang started sticking really close to me. Usually I could leave Qing Qiu to avoid her but Grandmother was sick so I couldn’t go anywhere. One night she tried to kill herself and even Grandmother was alarmed. She chastised me so I had to keep her company as she recovered. Later….I thought I saw you and you kept smiling at me…..” Jing’s face was filled with regret and anguish “I don’t know what happened but I woke up and I was sleeping with Yi Yang in my arms.”
Xiao Yao coolly explained “You likely got entranced by a confusion spell and then a love potion. You learned from me for a long time, how could you so easily fall into Yi Yang’s medicinal trap?”
Jing’s hands were clenched into a fist and he was filled with rage, but then he released it “My Grandmother set up the trap.” His dearest family tricking him left him nowhere to turn to release his rage.
Xiao Yao was astonished “It was the Grand Madam.”
JIng curled over in pain and put his hands on his face “Yi Yang told me that she just wanted to be my wife. If I wanted to I could kill her. In that instant I really wanted to kill her, but I wanted to kill myself more…..I escaped from her room and ran to Zhi Yi. I didn’t dare go see you and instead hid in the Li Jie tribe gambling den and drank myself into a stupor. Ten days later the owner kicked me out back to Little Zhu Rong’s residence when I learned that you had long left for Gao Xing.”
Xiao Yao thought and realized this was why Jing was so strange and didn’t contact her while she was gone.
Jing said “I wanted to find the chance to tell you this but you rushed to make medicine for Grandmother and I never got the chance. After you were done, before I could tell you, Yi Yang fainted….Xiao Yao, I’m sorry!”
Xiao Yao was silent and then said “Thank you for telling me this. Now I know at least that I didn’t misjudge you. My trust was not wrongly given. But what’s happened has happened and nothing can be reversed. Don’t blame yourself anymore.”
Xiao Yao took off her fish amethyst necklace and placed it in front of Jing “The Grand Madam will likely hold your wedding to Yi Yang soon. I won’t be attending to congratulate you. I’ll give you my blessings early now – respect and love each other until your hair is white.
Jing’s head jerked up and he stared at Xiao Yao.
In the dish, the lilies Ah Nian conjured up was wilting and as each petal fell and each leaf wilted, Xiao Yao sat on the pallet seemingly looking at him and seemingly not seeing him. The distance between them was but one crystal dish, but it felt as far and wide as the ends of the Earth.
Jing’s hand shook and he picked up the necklace and walked out of the residence. His footsteps were one light one heavy and he had no clue how he walked back to Zhuan Xu’s residence.
Feng Long saw the despondent Jing and tried to lighten the mood “Zhuan Xu, people sure are different, I see you have tons of women around you and never seen you affected. Jing only has two women and he’s completely a mess and near death. You’ve got to hurry up and teach him a few tricks!”
Zhuan Xu smiled but Jing appeared not to have heard anything, his face ashen and lifeless.
Zhuan Xu said to Feng Long “Let’s not discuss anything tonight, you take him back!”
Feng Long sighed and took Jing away.
Ten days later, the Tu Shan clan Grand Madam organized a hastily arranged wedding announcement that the Tu Shan clan leader would be marrying the daughter of the Fang Feng family.
It was so sudden that everyone was surprised but the Grand Madam placed all the reason on her due to her illness and not having time left to wait.
Everyone accepted this explanation and complimented Fang Feng Yi Yang for being so filial and willing to have a hasty wedding for the sake of the Grand Madam.
Zhuan Xu received the wedding invitation and ordered Xiao Xiao to prepare expensive presents to congratulate the Tu Shan clan leader on his happy day.
Zhuan Xu knew Xiao Yao broke up with Jing and he ought to now spend more effort to be on good terms with Jing. He can use the wedding for a legitimate trip to Qing Qiu and it would be very useful for him. But Zhuan Xu felt very conflicted, on one hand was happiness like a burden was shed, on the other was utter loathing at this wedding taking place. In the end, he handed off the task to Feng Long and remained on Sheng Nong Mountain to keep Xiao Yao company.
After lunch, Xiao Yao laid on the pallet with Zhuan Xu and Ah Nian and was holding the wedding invitation “Did you prepare a present for me?”
Zhuan Xu coolly replied “It’s prepared.”
Ah Nian asked quizzically “Why don’t either you go to Qing Qiu? This is the wedding of the Tu Shan clan leader….”
“Ah Nian, be quiet!” Zhuan Xu cut her off with a smile and his eyes may be gentle but Ah Nian saw beneath it and wisely said no more.
Xiao Yao stared at the water clock and the minute hand was getting closer to the time of the wedding. Right now Jing and Yi Yang must be standing in the ceremonial hall. The water dropped one by one and each drop was like a poison dropping on Xiao Yao’s heart. It pierced her through into hundreds and thousands of pockmarks. Xiao Yao knew she shouldn’t think about it but it was like she was possessed and she stared at the water clock thinking of when Jing would say his vows.
The Tu Shan residence must be decked out and bustling with activity.
Jing wearing a groom outfit, standing side-by-side with Yi Yang.
The officiant calling out as Jing and Yi Yang started to go through the wedding rites. Yi Yang got her wish come true and she must be thrilled, but what about Jing? What was his expression….
Xiao Yao suddenly felt her heart beating wildly and was so unexpected she couldn’t catch her breath and it banished all the images in her mind.
Zhuan Xu asked “Are you feeling sick?”
Xiao Yao shook her head “No! But a bit stuffy and suddenly want some fresh air.”
Xiao Yao rushed out the door and Zhuan Xu hurriedly draped a fur cloak around her. Xiao Yao stood in the courtyard staring up at the blue sky. Why did Xiang Liu suddenly had her feel his presence? Did he feel her pain? Or was it because he was currently in Qing Qiu watching Yi Yang and Jing get married and remembered she might not be happy about it? Was he mocking her? Or trying to console her?
Zhuan Xu asked “What are you thinking about?”
Xiao Yao said “I suddenly remembered the voodoo bug I planted in Xiang Liu. My body’s pain, he has to feel all of it. But what about my heartache? Does he also need to endure it? He said he has nine bodies so my pain isn’t too much for him to endure. But what about the heart? He only has one heart!”
Zhuan Xu grabbed Xiao Yao by the shoulders and harshly said “I don’t care what your relationship with him was in Qing Shui Town. Do not remain close to him now!”
Xiao Yao smiled bitterly “I know!”
Zhuan Xu said “Even though you keep saying the bug has no ill effects, when you’re all better it’s best to find a way to remove it.”
Xiao Yao stared at the blue sky and quietly felt her heart beating as one with another heart. The pressure and pain on her heart lessened, probably because another heart was taking some of the burden from her.
Xiao Yao got better and she started making poisons again.
When she was sick Zhuan Xu got all sorts of herbs and medicines but she didn’t use much of it so now it came in handy to use.
Xiao Yao smiled as usual but all the poisons she made were dark color. Black bats, black crows, black lover birds, black hibiscus….each one she placed in the box and totally gave off the impression that the maker was in a foul mood indeed. But during the process of making these dark and dreary poisons, Xiao Yao released all of her pain.
When the early Spring arrived, Xiao Yao took Ah Nian to Zhi Yi Castle to play.
Ah Nian’s attention was captivated by a street vendor’s knicknacks and was picking a few to take back. Xiao Yao had Hai Tang and Shan Hu keep Ah Nian company as she took her time to make her selection. She snuck away to the Tu Shan clan messenger service to mail the poisons to Xiang Liu.
Xiao Yao couldn’t help but smile when she imagined his displeasure when he saw this batch of poisons.
When Xiao Yao went back, what she saw was Ah Nian together with Xing Yue and Feng Long.
Xing Yue complained to Xiao Yao “Your real sister is here so you never come find me to play anymore. Even coming to Zhi Yi Castle you didn’t come see me.”
Xiao Yao put all the blame on Zhuan Xu’s head “Zhuan Xu doesn’t let me run around and insists I recuperate. Today is the first day I’ve gone down the mountain since I recovered and I was planning to go see you in a bit.”
Xing Yue was placated and warmly grabbed Xiao Yao’s elbow “Since you’re here, don’t hurry back and come have dinner at my house. I’ll send a message to Zhuan Xu and he can join us.”
Ah Nian immediately grabbed Xiao Yao’s other arm and pulled her sleeve repeatedly indicating for her to decline.
Xing Yue noticed what Ah Nian was doing and stared at Xiao Yao “Are you deciding to end our friendship forever?”
Xiao Yao’s head hurt and turned to Feng Long but he coughed twice and turned around indicating he was of no help.
Xiao Yao chuckled and said to Ah Nian “We’ll go to Xing Yue’s house to play a bit, after dinner we’ll go back with Zhuan Xu.”
Xing Yue smiled while Ah Nian pouted and glared balefully at Xiao Yao. Xiao Yao lightly squeezed her hand to indicate that she was still closest with her which was when Ah Nian reluctantly nodded her head.
Xiao Yao was afraid Ah Nian and Xing Yue would get in a fight and didn’t dare go straight to Little Zhu Rong’s residence so used the excuse of shopping to keep both on the street and in public where they would be a bit more restrained.
She lasted unto Zhuan Xu arrived and immediately rushed to his side and spit out through clenched teeth “From now on, Ah Nian and Xing Yue are your problem. Do not allow them to come bug me!” Xiao Yao pushed Zhuan Xu between Ah Nian and Xing Yue and rushed off to find Feng Long.
Feng Long congratulated Xiao Yao “You successfully escaped, congrats!”
Xiao Yao punched him hard “You did nothing to help!”
Feng Long turned back and it wasn’t clear what Zhuan Xu said but suddenly both Xing Yue and Ah Nian were beaming in smiles and Feng Long sighed “You’re Gege is the man!
Xiao Yao glanced back and burst out laughing “He likely summoned all his intelligence that would be used to deal with conflicting party officials in court.”
When they got to Little Zhu Rong’s residence, it wasn’t clear if Xing Yue really wanted to go all out to treat Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao, or she was trying to send a message to Ah Nian, but a last minute dinner banquet turned out to be lavish and seamless.
Ah Nian initially didn’t pay too much heed to it, but then she heard that Xing Yue’s mom lived in Chi Sui Castle and it was Xing Yue who ran the Little Zhu Rong residence. The way she looked at Xing Yue changed. Little Zhu Rong’s residence appeared like any expensive residence but all the orders and decrees in the Middle Plains originated from here. All of the Middle Plains and Xuan Yuan officials and important personages came through here and Xing Yue handled all the back end. It wasn’t any woman who could do this, and Ah Nian accepted that she wasn’t able to do it herself.
Ah Nian silently ate her dinner, and her silence caused no ripples during dinner and everyone was happy and relieved.
After dinner Feng Long and Xing Yue walked the three of them out, but then Feng Long pulled Zhuan Xu aside and the two of them talked for a long time. Xiao Yao was standing close but could hear nothing, likely Feng Long cast a masking spell and the discussion had to be very important.
After returning to Zhi Jin Palace, Xiao Xiao and Jin Xuan was waiting in the court and Zhuan Xu said to Xiao Yao “I have to take care of something, you guys go wash up and afterwards I’ll come to Xiao Yao’s room to discuss something with you both.”
Ah Nian and Xiao Yao agreed and went to wash up.
After Xiao Yao finished and Shan Hu was drying her hair, Ah Nian came in but her hair was still wet and she anxiously asked “Jiejie, what does Gege want to talk to us about?”
Hai Tang grabbed a crystal comb and fixed Ah Nian’s hair and used her power to dry it at the same time.
Xiao Yao “I don’t know, but seeming how solemn he looked, it has to be something important.”
Zhuan Xu walked in and both Hai Tang and Shan Hu left.
Ah Nian nervously stared “Gege, what do you want to tell us?”
Zhuan Xu glanced at Ah Nian and then kept his eyes on Xiao Yao “I wanted to tell you that I’m getting married.”
“What?” Ah Nian stood up and her face was white and her voice shook “You….you’re marrying Xing Yue?”
“No?” Ah Nian didn’t know if she was happy or even more sad. She stood there in a daze with the most awkward expression.
Zhuan Xu said “I’m marry the only daughter of the Tan family. She won’t be my princess, she’ll just be my consort, though just a level below.”
Ah Nian stared in despair at Xiao Yao, having no clue where this random woman popped out from. Xiao Yao explained “The Tan family is one of the Middle Plains Six Big Families, and is the largest one of the lot. When the Sheng Nong Kingdom was still in existence, the royal family always intermarried with them.”
Ah Nian asked “Does Xing Yue know?”
Zhuan Xu said “She should know by now, Feng Long will tell her.”
Ah Nian murmured “Is Gege done with what you wanted to say?”
“Then I’m leaving” Ah Nian rushed out.
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao and there was no expression on his face. She took out wine “You want to drink? I can get raging drunk with you.”
Zhuan Xu smiled bitterly and took the cup from her and downed it in one gulp.
Xiao Yao said “I’ve seen the Tan family daughter, she’s not as pretty as Jin Xuan or Xiao Xiao but she’s pretty enough. She’s reserved and very good as embroidery. Even seamstresses are in awe when they see her work.”
Zhuan Xu said nothing and continued drinking.
Xiao Yao said “If you marry the Tan family daughter, you are officially declaring war against our uncles. Are you ready?”
Zhuan Xu nodded.
Xiao Yao slowly said “Grandfather has always been wary of the Middle Plains families. Because she won’t be your princess, then Grandfather will agree. But she’s still the first woman you marry, I’m afraid if uncles urge on and the Xuan Yuan elders get upset, they will speak ill of you. What if Grandfather gets suspicious of you, then you will be in danger….”
Zhuan Xu said “I know, but I have to take this step, I have to make a marriage alliance with the Tan family.”
Xiao Yao reached out her hand and took Zhuan Xu’s hand, and both their hands were ice cold.
Xiao Yao gripped his hand tightly and said each word clearly “No matter what you do, no matter what tactics you use, I only ask that you stay alive!”
Zhuan Xu also gripped Xiao Yao’s hand tightly back “I said, I will let Sheng Nong Mountain bloom in phoenix flowers.”
Xiao Yao raised her cup and Zhuan Xu raised his cup and the two toasted before downing the wine.
Zhuan Xu put his cup down “I want to get raging drunk with you but I still have things to take care of.”
Xiao Yao shook her cup “Go! As long as you’re fine, I’m always here and we have plenty of time to drink.”
Zhuan Xu suddenly appeared overcome and he said “Xiao Yao…..”
Xiao Yao cocked her head to stare at him and he was silent for a moment before smiling “At the wedding, don’t congratulate me.”
“I won’t!” Xiao Yao was clear that this wasn’t something to congratulate, it could even be considered Zhuan Xu’s shame.
Zhuan Xu turned and walked off without looking back.
Xiao Yao poured herself another cup and slowly sipped it. Then she stood up and went to find Ah Nian.
Hai Tang saw her come in and looked like a burden was taken off her shoulders. She pointed to the inside and then ran outside.
Xiao Yao walked in and saw Ah Nian sprawled on the pallet sobbing her guts out. Xiao Yao sat down next to her and patted Ah Nian’s shoulder “Want to drink?”
Ah Nian sat up and grabbed the wine and gulped it down before coughing and saying “More!”
Xiao Yao poured her another cup “You can still go back to Five Gods Mountain.”
Ah Nian said “You think I didn’t consider that? I hurt now but every day I don’t see him and he’s nice to other women, I hurt more. I’m picking the lesser pain.” Ah Nian appeared to have a blood feud with wine and viciously downed it “This is the first time, I’ll slowly get used to it.”
Xiao Yao sighed “There’s no hope for you!”
Ah Nian cried “These days Gege doesn’t even try to shy away and instead purposely holds Jin Xuan in front of me. I know he’s doing it on purpose to force me to leave. But on Five Gods Mountain I suffer the pain of missing him without any happiness. By Gege’s side I hurt but when he’s with me then I’m happy. Even if he’s not with me, I think about the things we say and do together and I’m still happy.”
Xiao Yao suddenly realized that Ah Nian didn’t care about Zhuan Xu’s potential to be someone and loved him regardless of his position. Other women, whether it was Jin Xuan or Xing Yue, they had some part of liking him because of his position and his future power.
Xiao Yao asked “Ah Nian, if Zhuan Xu was still in Gao Xing and just an empty Prince with a title, but really a man who had nothing, would you still be willing to be with him?”
Ah Nian wiped her tears and glared at Xiao Yao “You mentioned this and I hate you! If it wasn’t for you, Gege would have never gone back to Xuan Yuan. If he stayed in Gao Xing forever that would be so great!”
Xiao Yao was certain that if Zhuan Xu stayed in Gao Xing, Xing Yue would never have liked him. Xing Yue wanted a man who shined for the world to shine and gave it to her. Whereas Ah Nian wanted a man who just loved her sincerely. Ah Nian loved the wrong type of man but it was too late for her now.
Xiao Yao hugged Ah Nian.
Ah Nian pushed her “You leave! I’m hating you right now!”
Xiao Yao said “But right now I’m finding you cute and pitiful, and I just want to hug you!”
Ah Nian snuffled “I hate you! I want to drink!”
Xiao Yao poured wine for Ah Nian “Drink!”
Xiao Yao wanted Ah Nian to get raging drunk but Ah Nian talked about her memories with Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao thought about Jing and all the sorrow in her heart welled up and she couldn’t help but drink along with her until she groggily passed out asleep.