This chapter of Lost You Forever is beautiful and bittersweet for all three male leads. Each had a chance with Xiao Yao at some point in their interactions with her and either blew it (Jing), never did anything (Xiang Liu), or can’t do anything (Zhuan Xu). Chapter 26 sticks them all together with her at a wedding and boy is it uncomfortable to watch. There’s Zhuan Xu getting married so he can actually keep on protecting Xiao Yao the only way he knows how, to win the Xuan Yuan throne and make her entire existence safe. Jing’s just wallowing in misery about being forced to marry Yi Yang after being tricked into sleeping with her. He let his enemies take advantage of him by not taking them out earlier, but it’s a rock and a hard place choice since his enemies are his family which is exactly Jing’s burden to bear. Xiang Liu’s presence in Xiao Yao’s life has morphed into protector and soulmate openly, he shares in her misery and aids in bringing her solace. He’s like the typical second male lead who just loves silently, except his alpha male personality and crackling interactions with Xiao Yao always leave the impression that they are mere seconds from throwing caution to the wind.
It’s always been like this since their first meeting now it’s settled into a quiet beautiful unspoken friendship. He taught her archery so she can protect herself and makes the perfect priceless bow for her, she makes poisons that keep him strong (i.e. she is actually cooking for and feeding him, how quaint), and through it all they have that bug that links them together. This chapter finally reveals what that particular voodoo bug is called – it’s the legendary and rare Lover’s Bug. The true magnitude and requirements for planting and removing the Lover’s Bug won’t be divulged just yet, but it’s going to be devastating to read later on as Xiao Yao’s life is only going to get more and more complicated despite her desire for it to get less and less complicated. Zhuan Xu’s quest for the throne is heading towards a make or break juncture soon and Xiao Yao’s got to decide where her own life is headed once she doesn’t need to help him anymore. Could she ever return to being sufficiently alone and bopping along carefree without a man or a mission in her life?
Chapter 26 – The Returning Wind Carries Well-wishes:
A year later in Zhi Yi Castle, Little Zhu Rong officiated the wedding for Prince Zhuan Xu to marry the only daughter of the Tan family as his princess consort. Xuan Yuan’s Seventh Prince Yu Yang rushed to the wedding to stand in as Zhuan Xu’s elder in lieu of the Yellow Emperor and bestowed Tan Shu Hui to Zhuan Xu.
Zhuan Xu was the only grandson of the bloodline of the Yellow Emperor and Empress Lei Zhu. The Tan family was the head of the Middle Plains Six Big Families. Even though it was just a consort wedding and wasn’t too big, but still plenty of powerful guests from within the vast wilderness came.
Empress Lei Zhu came from the Four Great Clan’s Xi Ling clan, so the current Xi Ling clan leader who was also Zhuan Xu’s uncle brought his son to the wedding. It was the first official indication that the Xi Ling clan was going to back Zhuan Xu. It wasn’t a surprise to any of the families in the vast wilderness, Zhuan Xu was ultimately Empress Lei Zhu’s bloodline so the Xi Ling clan supporting him was to be expected.
The biggest surprise was the arrival of the mysterious Gui Fang clan. It was a clan that no one dared to cross and they would mysteriously traverse the vast wilderness without leaving any signs. The clan appeared uninterested in anything the other clans cared about but this time one of its disciples brought a very extravagant wedding gift – Nine Stalks Soul Reversing Grass. When the present was presented, everyone present fell silent. Nine was the most illustrious number, so the Gui Fang clan appeared to be showing its respect to Zhuan Xu. The way everyone saw it, the Gui Fang clan also seemed to have chosen to support Zhuan Xu.
Among the Four Great Clans, the most nebulous of attitudes came from the Chi Sui and the Tu Shan clans. Everyone knew Zhuan Xu was close to Feng Long but Feng Long was not the clan leader. Only the Chi Sui clan leader’s clear indication could determine which way it fell.
At Zhuan Xu’s wedding, with all the clan and family leaders in attendance, the elders were non-stop busy observing and analyzing, fearful of one mistaken conclusion leading their clan or family into great calamity.
Because the Xi Ling clan leader came all this way, Zhuan Xu felt it wasn’t appropriate for others to welcome him, but he had no time to do it himself, so he specifically asked Xiao Yao to greet the Xi Ling clan leader.
The Xi Ling clan leader saw Xiao Yao and was stunned for a moment. Before Xiao Yao could say anything, he said “Seeing you, one look and it’s clear your are the blood of Her highness Lei Zhu.”
Xiao Yao respectfully greeted the Xi Ling clan leader “Your niece greets Uncle.”
Xiao Yao was the Gao Xing princess and ought not to pay such a big respect to the Xi Ling clan leader. But Xiao Yao’s greeting made it clear, blood first with no regard to position. She was very sincere and the Xi Ling clan leader warmly accepted it and felt very happy. He introduced his son Xi Ling Chun to Xiao Yao. Xi Ling Chun greeted her rather shyly “Cousin.”
Xiao Yao smiled and returned the greeting.
Xiao Yao was afraid Ah Nian would cause a scene so kept her by her side and pulled her over and said to Xi Ling Chun “This is my little sister. Little brother Chun you can call her Ah Nian like we do.”
Xi Ling Chun greeted Ah Nian and even though she was still in a bad mood, she was raised in a royal family so knew all the correct etiquette so she returned the greeting.
The Xi Ling clan leader nodded his head in approval.
When the auspicious hour arrived, amidst trumpets and horns, Zhuan Xu and Shu Hui got married.
Xiao Yao stood with the Xi Ling clan leader to watch the ceremony, one hand tightly clenching Ah Nian. Thankfully she did nothing other than keeping her head down as if she turned into a log.
Seeing Zhuan Xu getting married, Xiao Yao plastered a smile on her face but had no happiness in her heart. They stumbled, they fell, they drifted, they fought, along the way her and Zhuan Xu both grew up and now he was getting married. But this wedding wasn’t what Xiao Yao had envisioned.
In her memories: her Eldest Uncle’s wedding to the Sheng Nong Kingdom’s Princess was a lavish ceremony. She and Zhuan Xu got in a fight, he said a married daughter was like water splashed outside. She remembered later her Fourth Auntie committing suicide, Zhuan Xu’s nightly nightmares, her comfort that she would forever be with him. Zhuan Xu said she would marry one day and leave her, she innocently said that she wouldn’t marry another, she would marry him……
Though the crowd and the noise, Zhuan Xu turned to look at Xiao Yao. When their eyes locked, both had a perfect seamless smile locked on their face: no matter what, at least we are both still alive, as long as we stay alive, nothing else matters!
After the ceremony, the ushers invited the guests to be seated.
The Four Great Clans were so lofty, plus the presence of Xuan Yuan, Gao Xing, and Sheng Nong tribes, those seven groups were placed in the center room and the rest of the families of the vast wilderness were seated outside, with many spilling out even into the courtyard.
The Grand Emperor sent Ru So and Ju Mang to congratulate Zhuan Xu. Ju Mang was also a disciple of the Grand Emperor and was from a outsider tribe like Zhuan Xu was. He was alone in Gao Xing and his personality very strange, but because Zhuan Xu was so easygoing and got along with everyone, they became good friends.
Xiao Yao accompanied her Uncle and Cousin into the center room and when Ah Nian saw the familiar faces she immediately rushed to Ru So’s side. Xiao Yao and her Cousin flanked her Uncle’s side.
Everyone stood up. Because of the Xuan Yuan Empress Lei Zhu, even Prince Yu Yang stood up, and everyone greeted the Xi Ling clan leader.
The Xi Ling clan leader chatted first with Yu Yang, then a few pleasantries with Ru So. Feng Long and Xing Yue paid their respects to him and because of their shared relatives, they chatted about this elder’s health and that elder’s current state. They appeared to be able to talk for a long time but the Xi Ling clan leader saw Jing sitting with his head lowered and brought everyone over and jokingly said in an angry tone “Jing, you’ve got quite an attitude now!”
Chun and Jing were familiar with each other and Chun playfully said “Jing gege, last time I saw you, you were friendly and outgoing. How come it’s been just a year and you’re so standoffish?”
Jing stood up and greeted the Xi Ling clan leader with a smile. Both the Xi Ling clan leader and Chun were startled to see a few strands of white hair on Jing’s head. Chun was still a youth and he asked in shock “Jing gege, what happened to you?”
The Xi Ling clan leader shot his son a look and Chun immediately shut up. The Xi Ling clan leader smiled and asked about the Grand Madam’s health and whatnot and Jing answered all his questions.
Xiao Yao hadn’t seen Jing in over a year and seeing him like this, Xiao Yao maintained her smile and quietly stood next to the Xi Ling clan leader. She remembered in the ocean when he let his hair loose, the stirring in her heart. She remembered twining his hair around her fingers, each strand was a longing. Everything felt like yesterday but it was already black hair turned white and all longing severed.
Xiao Yao felt her heart was being clawed at by a large hand, so painful it was like being ripped apart. She could only keep smiling when suddenly she felt her heart violently beating. Xiao Yao couldn’t maintain her fake smile anymore, much like a person could endure severe pain without any change in expression yet couldn’t control exhibiting bodily reaction to intense exercise. Xiao Yao clutched her chest and took a few deep breaths.
Xing Yue hurriedly assisted her and asked in concern “Are you okay?”
Xiao Yao smiled and shook her head. The Xi Ling clan leader saw her face flushed bright red and quickly said “I remember your constitution is not strong, hurry and sit down to rest.”
Xing Yue helped Xiao Yao to sit down at Jing’s table.
Jing anxiously put one hand on Xiao Yao’s wrist while his other clutched the wine cup and transformed the wine into a fog. Everyone knew the Tu Shan clan had the power to mystify which was very useful for taking away pain. No one thought it weird what Jing was doing.
Her heart continued to beat wildly and strongly, so much that she felt like all her blood was rushing into her head. Xiao Yao couldn’t control it and muttered under her breath “Xiang Liu, will you cut it out already?”
Everyone only heard “cut it out already”, but Jing was sitting closest to her and he was completely familiar with Xiao Yao’s voice, so he heard every word she said.
Her heartbeat started to return to normal and Xiao Yao gently pulled her hand away from Jing “Thank you, I’m fine now.”
Jing pulled his hand back but it clenched into a tight fist to tamp down everything he was feeling.
Xiao Yao stood up and politely thanked him before returned to the Xi Ling clan leader’s side. He said “Let’s go sit down.”
Jing asked Xing Yue “Didn’t you said she was all recovered?”
Xing Yue angrily said “Zhuan Xu told me with his own mouth that she was all recovered. If you don’t believe me, then from now on don’t ask me about Xiao Yao!”
Feng Long shot Jing a look “I suggest you not mess with her today!”
Zhuan Xu arrived in his groom’s outfit to toast the guests and everyone congratulated him “Congrats, congrats!”
Zhuan Xu smiled and said “Congrats!” and the downed the cup in his hand.
Ah Nian had a pissy face all day but she saw that Xing Yue could actually smile so she forced herself to smile and toasted Zhuan Xu “Congrats!”
Xiao Yao silently drank along with everyone. Zhuan Xu thanked the guests for their well-wishes and went outside to toast more guests.
Xiao Yao said in a low voice “Cousin Chun, can you drink?”
Chun admittd “Gu Ju has good hard alcohol, I’m a Gu Ju region son so of course I can drink.”
Xiao Yao said “Today there are so many guests, you follow behind your older cousin and drink on his behalf and watch out for him.”
She was treating him like a real close family member without any reservation so Chun gladly agreed “Will do.” He stood up and snuck out behind Zhuan Xu.
The Xi Ling clan leader smiled at Xiao Yao “Before coming I was afraid you guys would be like strangers and not get close right away, who knew you and Zhuan Xu are so easygoing and Chun also gets along with you guys. This is a relief!”
Xiao Yao said “My Gege and I stayed beside our grandmother for quite some time and hear her often talk about Gu Ju, she really wanted to go back.”
The Xi Ling clan leader sighed “All these years, it’s been hard on the Xi Ling clan, and even harder on Zhuan Xu. From now on, you cousins have to support each other.”
“Xiao Yao understands.”
The Xi Ling clan leader said “I’m going to drink with some old friends to catch up. You don’t need to keep an old fogey like me company, go play with your friends.”
Xiao Yao knew the elders would drink and discuss matters, perhaps her Uncle would try to get more supporters behind Zhuan Xu. She said “Okay, if Uncle you need anything then just have a maid come get me.”
Xiao Yao saw Ru So pouring Ah Nian wine and knew what he was trying to do. She felt relieved and smiled at Ru So in thanks and saw him smile back in understanding.
Xiao Yao reminded Hai Tang “When the Princess is drunk, you take her back to Zhi Jin Court to sleep.”
Hai Tang agreed and Xiao Yao left without any worry.
Xiao Yao walked along the wall with her head lowered as she passed the other guest tables.
The sound of loud cheers reached her and Xiao Yao glanced over and her eyelid jumped and she stopped her footsteps. She stared at a table with a bowl in the middle and lots of young men were drinking and making merry. Fang Feng Bei, wearing a white embroidered robe, was standing there with a lazy smile.
Xiao Yao felt the voodoo bug in her body but got no response. Xiao Yao gave up, was she the one who raised the bug or was it Xiang Liu? Xiang Liu could control her but she couldn’t control Xiang Liu at all! Could it be that even voodoo bugs know how to fear the strong and sneer at the weak?
Fang Feng Bei glanced over at Xiao Yao and she wanted to leave but stood there and didn’t move for the longest time.
Fang Feng Bei finally picked up a jug of wine and walked over to Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao turned and slowly walked while Fang Feng Bei followed behind her, gradually the sound of voices and noises faded behind them.
She could smell the cloves from far away and followed the scent until she got to a cluster of clove trees. The flowers were blooming and the purple buds littered the ground.
Xiao Yao sat cross-legged on the ground while Fang Feng Bei leaned against a tree and drank.
Xiao Yao stared at him while he smiled down at her. She said nothing and he appeared to have no intention of speaking either.
Finally Xiao Yao spoke first “Did you attend Jing and Yi Yang’s wedding?”
“I may be irresponsible but I still would manage to attend my little sister’s wedding to the Tu Shan clan leader.”
“The pain in my heart, do you feel it?” Xiao Yao’s face turned red, not clear if it was over embarrassment or frustration. The reason the heart was tucked deep inside the body was so that people’s feelings, whether it was happiness or sorrow, would remain concealed. But right now her heart felt like it was stark naked before Xiang Liu, like she was stripped naked before him to observe.
Xiang Liu softly chuckled “If you’re afraid I will feel everything, then stop tormenting yourself. If your heart doesn’t hurt, then I’ll be better off as well.”
Xiao Yao heard the last thing he said and immediately perked up “If my body hurts 9/10th, then you hurt 1/10th. But if my heart hurts, is it how much I feel you feel?”
Xiang Liu honestly said “Yes! If your heart hurts how much is how my heart hurts how much. What of it? Are you planning to use that to reckon with me?”
Xiao Yao was silent. He was right! She could inflict bodily pain on herself, but she couldn’t make happiness or sadness.
Xiang Liu suddenly said “I’m a killer for hire sometimes.”
Xiao Yao looked quizzically at him and he said slowly “If you pay, I can kill Fang Feng Yi Yang and her child for you.”
Xiao Yao smiled wanly “That is like the worst idea ever!”
Xiang Liu said in a half sincere half joking way “Then you stop giving yourself a heartache in the future. If you keep causing trouble for me, maybe I’ll decide to kill you!”
Xiao Yao pouted “I didn’t force you to take the voodoo bug into your body years ago.”
“Years ago, I knew you were useless and would often get injured. But I didn’t know you were this foolish and couldn’t even protect your own heart.”
Xiao Yao opened her mouth like she wanted to argue back but said nothing. She dejectedly lowered her head like a wilted sunflower.
A winged horse trotted over and Xiang Liu vaulted on its back “Want to go?”
Xiao Yao raised her head and stared at Xiang Liu “Where?”
Xiao Yao hesitated, this wasn’t Qing Shui Town, the ocean was very far from the Middle Plains.
Xiang Liu didn’t rush her as his hand held the reins and he stared into the vast distance. The winged horse was also silent and stepped quietly in place.
Xiao Yao couldn’t control her body and soul longing for the vast expanse of the ocean and she leaped up “Let’s go to the ocean.”
Xiang Liu turned back and stared at Xiao Yao before he reached out his hand.
Xiao Yao grabbed his hand and vaulted on the winged horse’s back.
The winged horse appeared to know it was time to leave and loudly whined. Xiang Liu whipped the reins and the horse flew into the air.
Miao Pu rushed out and anxiously yelled “Princess!”
Xiao Yao said “Tell Gege I’m leaving for a few days.”
When the winged horse left Zhi Yi Castle behind, Xiang Liu switched rides to his white condor.
Xiao Yao sat on Furball and stared at Xiang Liu, feeling like it was another lifetime ago. She asked “Aren’t you going to transform your hair color back?”
Xiang Liu said “This is dyed and not transformation.”
“Why pick such a hassle of a method?”
“The first time it was to avoid making a mistake, later it became a habit.”
Xiao Yao stared at the plump clouds passing by and thought about Xiang Liu being hesitant and afraid of making a mistake and she couldn’t help but laugh.
Xiang Liu appeared to know what she was thinking and casually said “In the beginning, even the biggest baddie is a callow youth like any other.”
Xiao Yao’s smiled slowly disappeared.
It was the middle of the night when they arrived in the deep ocean.
Xiao Yao couldn’t help but stand up and she closed her eyes to in breath in deep ocean air.
Xiang Liu grabbed her and suddenly vaulted off the back of the condor.
She knew Xiang Liu wouldn’t let her fall to death so she was just startled but not scared. She instead enjoyed the sensation of falling from up high.
The wind whizzed past her ear like knives cutting and her skin was stinging in pain. Her entire body was being frozen by the cold air and only their joined hands felt a sliver of warmth.
Xiao Yao suddenly thought – if she died falling like this, it wasn’t a big deal.
When they entered the ocean, it wasn’t a huge splash like she imagined.
When Xiao Yao opened her eyes, she curiously looked around. The ocean was parting for them ahead and closing for them behind. Their speed gradually decreased but they continued to sink into the depths.
After some time, Xiao Yao felt the water pressure gently squeezing her. She held her breath until it was almost gone and she pointed to the surface to go up. Xiang Liu grabbed her hand and wouldn’t let her go up.
Xiao Yao furiously stared at him, was he trying to force her…..to do that?
Xiang Liu smiled and pulled Xiao Yao down with him deeper. Xiao Yao’s face was turning blue and white and her brain was fighting with itself – kiss or no kiss?
Back then it was because of her promise to Jing, but now it was all in the past and Jing was married. There was no reason for her to suffer for it anymore and risk her own life….Xiao Yao made her decision and pulled on Xiang Liu’s arm and used it to propel her closer to him.
Xiang Liu stood in the water and smiled at her. Xiao Yao was embarrassed and frustrated and lowered her eyes because she didn’t dare look at him. Right as she was about to kiss Xiang Liu, he suddenly turned his head and avoided her kiss and then starting laughing loudly.
Xiao Yao was so embarrassed she decided to just go die! She shook off his hand and didn’t swim upward but instead dove deeper.
Xiang Liu chased behind her and chuckled as he said “Don’t suffocated yourself to death! Try breathing. I didn’t let you swim up not because I wanted to force you to…..kiss me.” Xiang Liu’s laughter rang out again “It’s because you don’t need to do that anymore.”
Xiao Yao tried breathing and it was just like when she put the fish amethyst in her mouth. She could breathe underwater like fish. Xiao Yao realized that when Xiang Liu gave her his essential soul blood, she gained some of his powers. From now on, she could be like the daughter of the sea and swim in the water in complete freedom.
But at the moment Xiao Yao wasn’t happy about that, but instead was so embarrassed about what she just tried to do that she would rather slam her head in the water and kill herself.
Xiao Yao was so furious she screamed “Xiang Liu, you….you did that on purpose! I hate you!” She finished yelling and realized she was just like Xiang Liu and could now talk underwater.
“I, I can talk!” Xiao Yao was stunned for a moment and then back to being furious “Xiang Liu, I hate you! How dare you keep laughing? If you keep laughing, I’ll….I’ll…..” Xiao Yao couldn’t think of anything she could use to torment him. He played the world and wanted for nothing, the only thing he cared about was the Sheng Nong resistance army, but even if Xiao Yao had ten guts she didn’t dare to use the army to threaten Xiang Liu.
Xiang Liu was still laughing and Xiao Yao was still so mortified and humiliated that she turned and started swimming away, only thinking she never wanted to see Xiang Liu again.
Xiang Liu called out “Fine, I’ll stop laughing” but his voice was still full of mirth.
Xiao Yao ignored him and swam earnestly. Xiang Liu said nothing more and if Xiao Yao swam fast then he sped up and if she swam slow then he slowed down, keeping pace beside her the entire time.
The underwater world was desolate and mysterious, but still full of colorful wonders.
The transparent and lissome jellyfish; all sorts of colorful shells and clams; multi-hued fishes in all sizes; ambling starfish floating in the water really like the stars in the sky….
After swimming for a long time, Xiao Yao forgot she was angry and her body and soul was immersed in the water world.
In the past, no matter how much she loved the water, she was still her and water was still water. Even with the fish amethyst there was still a barrier between them. But this time she felt like she was part of the water, she could stay in the water forever.
Xiang Liu suddenly asked “Does it feel strange?”
Xiao Yao turned a few times and swam on top him and stared at Xiang Liu “It does feel strange that my body isn’t like before.”
Xiang Liu coolly said “This is the price you paid to stay alive, to become a monster.”
Xiao Yao was startled and remembered that one time when Xiang Liu was healing her he whispered “Don’t hate me.”
Xiang Liu saw Xiao Yao dazed and saying nothing and felt she was upset that her body had turned deviant. He laughed and sped up quickly and zoomed right past Xiao Yao and swam towards the ocean depths.
Xiao Yao reacted and quickly went to chase him “Xiang Liu, Xiang Liu…..”
But she couldn’t catch up to him, and even though Xiang Liu didn’t abandon her fully, he kept his wide distance and never looked back, leaving only his distant figure in her eyes.
“Ah———-” Xiao Yao screamed suddenly and curled up into a ball like she had been bitten by something.
The second Xiang Liu turned around he was right next to Xiao Yao. He reached out his hand but immediately realized that he and Xiao Yao were linked by the bug so if she was really hurt then he would feel it. He reached back his hand but Xiao Yao already tightly grabbed it and smiled deviously at him.
Xiang Liu coldly said “If you don’t want to die, then let go!”
Xiao Yao looked at Xiang Liu and released his hand but then grabbed his sleeve and shook it “I’m just kidding! Don’t be so mean!”
Xiang Liu ignored Xiao Yao and swam forward but she held onto his sleeve and stayed right beside him “My body is different than other gods but I don’t see this as a price to pay for living, I think of it as getting a great gift! I’m so happy about it!”
Xiang Liu continued to ignore Xiao Yao but didn’t shake her hand off.
Xiao Yao continued to natter “You’re a Nine-headed demon, you have nine-lives and you spent one on saving me. I can swim in the ocean freely like you now. If I die again and you give another of your lives to save me, will I become even more like you…….”
Xiang Liu stared at Xiao Yao and his face was as placid as the water.
Xiao Yao’s voice got smaller and smaller “Become, become…..I mean…..” She suddenly started to chuckle like a fool “I, forget I said anything!”
Xiang Liu grabbed Xiao Yao’s neck and moved his face right in front of her face and said each word carefully “If you dare die again, I will cut you into nine pieces, perfect for each of my heads to eat a piece!”
Xiao Yao shook her head hard “Can’t you be more gentle? It’s hard for you to save me, if you choke me to death, how could you bear it?” After she said that XIao Yao suddenly realized what she just said and jerked her head up and stared into Xiang Liu’s eyes for a long moment. She suddenly laughed “I mean how can you bear wasting more of your essential soul blood.”
Xiang Liu smiled and his two teeth sharpened into fangs “Do you want me to show you now?”
Xiao Yao grabbed her neck and pulled back “No, no, I know you can bear to waste it since you can just eat it all back later if you want!”
Xiang Liu’s fangs retracted and he swam off. Xiao Yao rushed to catch up to him. Xiao Yao gradually caught up and a colorful school of fish swam past them.
Xiao Yao reached out her hand and the colorful fishes kissed her palms and she could feel their simple joy “They are so simple like they have no feelings.”
Xiang Liu said “This type of fish have very short memories. When you pull your hand back, they will have forgotten they kissed your palm.”
Without memory there was longer, happiness or joy, so their peaceful simplicity was truly the most organic in the world.
Xiao Yao swam and turned back to look at the colorful fishes still swimming back and forth “I remember them but they’ve already forgotten me. In the future when I see the same type of fish I’ll remember them so that each new meeting is like a reunion, but each meeting for them is a new meeting, so even a real reunion is like a first meeting.”
Xiang Liu asked “Do you want to remember or forget?”
Xiao Yao thought about it “Remember, even if it’s painful and a burden, I still want to remember.”
Xiao Yao suddenly stopped and strained to listen as a melodic singing drifted to her, so beautiful even her soul was quaking, it was a sound not to be heard in the world above. But Xiao Yao remembered that she heard it before.
Xiang Liu said “That’s….”
“The mating song of the merpeople.”
“How do you know?” Xiang Liu stared at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao acted nonchalantly with a smile “I guessed it. Legend says the merpeople have incredibly melodic voices so from who else in the deep ocean but the merpeople to sing like that?” Xiang Liu didn’t want her to know that when she was unconscious the things he did with her, and she didn’t want him to know that she already knew. Their embraces and companionship, just let it be buried deep in the dark ocean depths!
Xiang Liu said “The merpeople’s song is very beautiful but it’s also a weapon. Rumor has it that Gao Xing’s Prince Yen Long heard the sound of the merpeople and devised a kill attack from it.”
Xiao Yao “Can we go sneak a peek at them?”
Xiang Liu had a look of discomfort for the first time ever.
Xiao Yao pleaded “I’ve never seen a merperson, and if I miss this chance who know when I’ll get another chance.”
Xiang Liu reached out his hand “They are very alert things, I need to mask your presence.”
Xiao Yao took his hand and slowly swam behind him.
Xiao Yao saw them.
The merpeople had the body of a person and the tail of a fish. The mermaid had thick lustrous hair like seaweed, brilliant gem-like eyes, snow white skin, beautiful and exotic; the merman was comparatively ugly but strongly built with thick chest muscles and arms, very powerful. He was raising a giant clam shell above him while chasing the mermaid and singing his song. The mermaid ran from him but sang back, fast and swift she darted so the merman couldn’t touch her.
In the pursuit, the mermaid appeared to be moved and slowed down. The merman opened his giant clam shell and inside was a purple pearl the size of a fist glowing brightly.
The mermaid smiled and swam into the clam shell and picked up the pearl and happily sang to it. She appeared to have accepted the merman and was praising him.
The merman also swam into the clam shell and embraced the mermaid before enthusiastically kissing her. Their tails intertwined and was rhythmically thumping.
Xiang Liu tried to pull Xiao Yao away but she wouldn’t leave “What are they doing?”
Xiang Liu didn’t answer her and Xiao Yao thought about it before suddenly realizing – they were mating! She swiftly turned around.
The two merpeople in the clam shell sensed movement and both exposed their sharp teeth and looked over angrily. Xiang Liu grabbed Xiao Yao and swam for it.
When it was certain the merpeople wasn’t going to catch up, Xiao Yao incredulously asked “Are you afraid of them?”
“I’m not afraid of them, but for them to notice we were peeping at them…..that’s not something to be proud of!”
Xiao Yao’s face was beet red “How was I to know they would be so direct?”
“In this world, other than the gods and the humans, all other living beings are direct in mating. From the percentages, direct is the natural way and the unnatural way is you guys. So you have no right to be upset at them.”
Xiao Yao immediately surrendered “Yes, yes, I’m in the wrong.”
Xiang Liu stifled a smile.
Xiao Yao curiously asked “Why did the merman carry a giant clam shell?”
“The clam shell is their home, and the larger the clam shell the harder to catch, so the mermen display their strength in wooing the mermaids to mate by displaying their catch. They mate in the clam shell and bear their offspring there. The pearl inside is actually the innards of the clam shell demons, and will become the food fed to the baby merchildren.”
Xiao Yao remembered when she was asleep for thirty-seven years, it was inside a giant clam shell. She didn’t pay attention after she woke up but she remembered it was all white, and there seemed to be wave pattern ridges along the edges. She didn’t remember how big it was though. Xiao Yao wanted to ask Xiang Liu but was too embarrassed to bring it up. She now regretted not carefully observing the clam shell she slept in for thirty-seven years to see what it looked like.
Xiang Liu noticed Xiao Yao was saying nothing but her face was gradually turning red again. He coughed lightly “I know you’re pretty shameless and thick skinned, who knew you’d be wrangled to behave by a pair of merpeople.”
Xiao Yao glanced at Xiang Liu and it was the rare instance when she didn’t have a quip back.
The two of them aimlessly ambled in the ocean until Xiao Yao got tired and laid down in the water and couldn’t move anymore.
Xiang Liu asked her “Tired?”
Xiao Yao was tired and sleepy and murmured “I’m just going to close my eyes for a second.” And she promptly fell asleep. With the water as her cushion, it was soft but continuously moving so her sleep was being jostled.
A pure white enormous clam shell floated over to them and slowly opened when it arrived next to them. Xiang Liu picked up Xiao Yao in his arm and gingerly placed her inside the clam shell. He didn’t sleep and instead leaned against the clam shell and stared at the glittering starfish in the distance.
Xiao Yao hadn’t slept through the night for the past year and would even wake up two or three times a night. Sometimes she needed sleeping pills on particularly bad nights to even fall asleep.
This sleep was deep and restful and she didn’t even had a single dream. When she was about to wake up, she finally had a dream and it was one where she was picking stars in the ocean. The ocean stars were growing like mushrooms in the mountains and she plucked one after another and it was in all sorts of colors. She ate one and discovered it was sweet. Xiao Yao laughed happily as she picked more and she actually laughed out loud and woke herself up with her laugh. She realized it was a dream but kept her eyes closed to remain happily ensconced in the happy dream.
Xiao Yao opened her eyes and saw Xiang Liu leaning against the clam shell next to her, one leg straight and the other curved with his arm resting on it as he lowered his head to stare at her, a smile curving on his lips. Xiao Yao smiled and stretched and sweetly said “I had a happy dream.”
Xiang Liu answered “I know.”
Xiao Yao suddenly realized they were in a clam shell and wanted to immediately check it out but was afraid her intentions would be too obvious so forced herself to be patient. She continued laying for a bit before slowly getting up and acting all nonchalant as she looked around. It was the same clam shell, all white in color with wave ripple ridges. It was beautiful.
The clam shell was enormous and even with the two of them inside it wasn’t a tight squeeze at all. She slept here for thirty-seven years with Xiang Liu, would that be equivalent of sleeping in the same bed and sharing the same pillow? Those two merpeople saw the clam shell as their home, how did Xiang Liu view this clam shell?
Xiao Yao suddenly felt all sorts of thoughts and feelings rush up and her face burned as her heart sped up.
Xiao Yao chastised herself and tried desperately to control her feelings and reactions, but she couldn’t control her heartbeat. Just like that, Xiang Liu sensed it and looked over at her. Xiao Yao quickly said “I’m hungry! So hungry I’m all nerves!”
Xiao Yao’s face was so red it was like a burning sunset and she forced her eyes wide open to stare at Xiang Liu. His heartbeat quickened a few times and Xiao Yao sensed it. But then it was gone just like that and she wondered if it was her mistaken sensation.
Xiang Liu casually said “Let’s go!”
Xiang Liu led the way as they swam up to the surface. Xiao Yao turned to look back and saw the clam shell slowly closing like a flower.
When they reached the surface it was already sunset. Xiao Yao realized they spent a day and a night under the sea. Xiang Liu took Xiao Yao to an island, Xiao Yao grilled two fishes for herself and roasted a giant suckling pig sized fish for Xiang Liu. She used a conch shell to make a seafood soup. She carried her herb pouch with her everywhere but she didn’t use any seasonings on her fish but sprinkled it on Xiang Liu’s fish. It wasn’t even done cooking yet but the mouthwatering scent wafted everywhere.
Xiao Yao stared at it and started drooling but she didn’t have the guts to eat it and instead docilely ate her two fish.
Xiang Liu took a bite of his fish and made a rare compliment to Xiao Yao “The taste is pretty good.”
Xiao Yao smiled and asked “I’ll drink the soup first, and then afterwards I’ll season it for you. Do you mind drinking after me?”
Xiang Liu casually replied “You drink first!”
Xiao Yao drank her soup and felt full and warm as her clothes were dry by now. She was very relaxed and comfortable and sprinkled poison in the soup and it mixed with the seafood to make an even more tasty flavor.
Xiang Liu wasn’t afraid of the heat and picked up the conch shell and drank the soup directly as he ate the fish.
Xiao Yao wrapped her arms around her knees and stared at the stars in the sky and listened to the waves crashing on the rocks.
After Xiang Liu was done eating he said “Let’s go back.”
Xiao Yao didn’t move and continued to stare at the ocean. If it was possible, she really wanted to live like this for the rest of her life.
“Xiao Yao?” Xiang Liu stood before Xiao Yao. She raised her head to stare at him and smiled “Don’t you feel like today was a day we stole to spend together? That there is only now and no tomorrow!”
Xiang Liu was taken aback and said nothing. Xiao Yao pointed to the horizon “What’s over there?”
“What kind of islands?”
“Some islands have not even a blade of grass, others as beautiful as a dreamscape.”
Xiao Yao sighed “I really want to go see.”
Xiang Liu remained silent and then whistled once before Furball arrived. He vaulted on its back and Xiao Yao had no choice but to stand up and climb on.
As they got close to Zhi Yi, Xiang Liu switched to his winged horse.
As they reached Little Zhu Rong’s residence, they ran into someone leaving and a cloud carriage was about to rise. Xiang Liu pulled back on his winged horse and the driver on the other side also pulled back and the two sides avoided a collision.
Xiang Liu patted his winged ride to calm it while the cloud carriage window opened. Xiang Liu saw it was Jing and smiled “My apologies!”
Jing said “We were at fault as well.”
Xiao Yao ignored Jing and jumped off the winged ring and said to Xiang Liu “Will you be in Zhi Yi in the coming days?”
“Maybe, or maybe not.”
Xiao Yao smiled and sighed “I’m off.”
Xiang Liu nodded and Xiao Yao ran into Little Zhu Rong’s residence.
Jing slowly closed the window and said to Hu Ya “Let’s go!”
Xiao Yao found Xing Yue who said “Zhuan Xu just stayed one night and then took Shu Hui to Sheng Nong Mountain. Why don’t you stay here tonight!”
Xiao Yao said “Next time, I need to hurry back. I didn’t tell Zhuan Xu before leaving with Fang Feng Bei to play, I’m afraid he’s pissed so can you have a cloud carriage take me back to Sheng Nong Mountain.”
Xing Yue said “I won’t urge you to stay then. I’ll have it arranged immediately and you can leave shortly.”
Xing Yue walked Xiao Yao out and Xiao Yao asked “I’ve been busy with Gege’s wedding planning and haven’t had time to chat with you. How are you holding up?”
Xing Yue sighed with a wan smile “Being sad is to be expected, but since I’ve decided to follow your Gege, I knew this day would come so it’s not that hard to bear.”
Xiao Yao didn’t know what to say and only patted her hand.
Xing Yue helped Xiao Yao on the cloud carriage “When you have time come see me more often, don’t grow distant because of Jing gege.”
Xiao Yao smiled and agreed. The cloud carriage rose into the air and her face fell.
It was nighttime when she arrived at Zhi Jin Court.
Xiao Yao rushed into the court and saw Zhuan Xu, Shu Hui, and Ah Nian having dinner. Shu Hui immediately stood up when she saw Xiao Yao. Zhuan Xu glanced at Xiao Yao and his face was impassive as he ignored her.
Xiao Yao greeted Shu Hui “Sister-in-law, please sit. No formalities in the family.”
Shu Hui’s face was red and she shyly sat down.
Ah Nian tossed her chopsticks and rushed out and Xiao Yao make a quick excuse “I’ll dine with my little sister privately, Gege and sister-in-law continue with dinner!”
Xiao Yao caught up to Ah Nian who was walking and wiping her tears.
Xiao Yao wanted to stop her but Ah Nian pushed her aside “Where’d you go? You smell like the ocean, don’t get close to me.”
Xiao Yao smiled wryly, this girl doesn’t even forget to be bratty even when she’s sad.
Entering Ah Nian’s residence, Hai Tang ordered the maids to bring dinner. Xiao Yao said to Ah Nian “You eat first, I’m going to wash up.” Xiao Yao cocked her head “The way you look at everything is from whether you like something or dislike something.”
“How can I be more like Xing Yue?”
“You envy her?”
Ah Nian bit her lip and reluctantly nodded her head “I feel like Gege will like a girl like Xing Yue more, capable and smart, worldly and well-behaved, a woman who knows when to push forward and when to give in.”
Xiao Yao said “Ah Nian, you might be somewhat arrogant and self-absorbed, and rash, but you don’t need to be like Xing Yue.”
“But I’m afraid Gege will dislike me.”
Xiao Yao smiled and shook her head “He watched you grow up, he knows exactly what your personality is. When he had nothing he treated you so well, in the future when he has everything he will also treat you well.”
“All you need to change is to control your temper. Don’t blame your unhappiness on other women. If you really want to hate someone, then hate Zhuan Xu.”
“I can’t hate him………” Ah Nian’s eyes were teary and red.
Xiao Yao said “Like I said, your temper will only lead others to look down on Zhuan Xu. Everyone is watching Zhuan Xu’s each and every move right now, so it will be harmful to him.”
“I’ll change my temper. If I’m not happy, I’ll walk away.”
“Ah Nian, I’ll ask you one last time – are you certain you want to follow Zhuan Xu?”
Ah Nian said with absolutely certainty “I want to be with Zhuan Xu gege.”
“Can you accept that he will only have a little portion of his time to spend with you?”
“I said that I would rather than a percent of Gege’s niceness to me, then a hundred percent of another man.”
Xiao Yao sighed “Then listen to your Jiejie, ignore the women around Zhuan Xu. Whether it’s Xing Yue, or this one, or that one, you don’t need to pay attention to any of them. Since you can’t change anything, then act like they don’t exist. You just need to enjoy every moment Zhuan Xu spends with you. When he’s off spending time with other women, then you can act like he’s off working on important matters.”
“But….what if Gege is entranced by another woman and forgets me?”
Zhuan Xu entranced by a woman? Not unless that woman was named Absolute Royal Power. Xiao Yao laughed out loud and Ah Nian pursed her lips.
Xiao Yao controlled her laughter and said “As long as you are Ah Nian then Zhuan Xu will never forget you. You are different then all of them which is why Zhuan Xu keeps trying to drive you away. He would never be so considerate to all those other women!”
Ah Nian didn’t understand and stared at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao knew Ah Nian had to get over this hump and said very sternly “Zhuan Xu will never forget you for another woman. If you follow him and can’t deal with that and are always having a temper, then he might drift from you.”
Ah Nian understood this and thought about it “Jiejie, trust me, since this is my decision, I won’t have a temper anymore.”
Xiao Yao said “Then do you believe what I said to you?”
Ah Nian said “You are Gege’s closest person, whatever you say I believe you.” Once she couldn’t stand how close Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu were which is why she had a temper towards Xiao Yao. Later when other women showed up, her anger towards Xiao Yao decreased and she started remembering how good Xiao Yao was to her.
Xiao Yao lovingly pinched Ah Nian’s cheeks “Don’t go emulating Xing Yue, you can’t learn it even if you tried. Just be the Ah Nian who can control her temper. Let Dad and I handle the other stuff for you.”
Ah Nian’s nose got stuffy and she said in a low voice “Am I extraordinarily stupid and need you guys to constantly worry about me?”
Xiao Yao said “Intelligence can breed conflict, a woman needs to be a dash more clueless to keep her happiness intact.”
Ah Nian smiled “Then am I lucky and can keep on being stupid?”
Xiao Yao nodded “Stupid girl, go eat your dinner!”
Zhuan Xu ignored Xiao Yao for ten straight days and Xiao Yao refused to admit she did anything wrong. She would only flit around him smiling and if he ignored her then she would keep smiling and flit away.
After ten days it was Zhuan Xu who gave in first, when Xiao Yao flitted by with a smile he said in annoyance “If you have nothing to do, then take Ah Nian down the mountain to play and stop being an eyesore around here!”
Xiao Yao made a face to Shu Hui and then sat down next to Zhuan Xu “I’ll take Ah Nian to find Xing Yue who has been complaining that I don’t hang out with her anymore. Maybe we’ll stay there for a few days.”
Xiao Yao looked at Shu Hui “Want to go, sister-in-law?”
Shu Hui glanced at Zhuan Xu and blushed “I’ll pass this time, next time I’ll go see cousin Xing Yue.”
Xiao Yao took Ah Nian to visit Xing Yue who naturally asked they to stay. Xing Yue thought Xiao Yao would decline because of Ah Nian but who knew Xiao Yao accepted immediately.
Ah Nian knew Xiao Yao was doing this to even out her temper, and she really wanted to try and get rid of her quicksilver temper as well. She tried using a natural attitude towards Xing Yue and stop thinking of her as someone trying to take her Zhuan Xu gege away. Ah Nian reminded herself that Zhuan Xu gege would never be taken away, he would only drift away on his own if her temper wasn’t changed.
In the beginning, every time Xiao Yao and Xing Yue talked, Ah Nian would respond stiffly with an expressionless face. Sometimes Xing Yue purposely tried to get a rise out of her and would happily chatter about her interactions with Zhuan Xu. Ah Nian almost lost it a few times but every time she was about to explode she saw Xiao Yao sitting to the side grinning at her so she gritted her teeth and endured.
As the days passed, Ah Nian discovered that enduring wasn’t such a difficult thing. With the first time, there was the second time, and the third time, and by the fourth time it became rather effortless. Patience and endurance was itself a habit and need to be developed. When she calmed down and actually listened to what Xing Yue said, Ah Nian had a realization that the Zhuan Xu that Xing Yue saw wasn’t the full Zhuan Xu.
Ah Nian had a strange sense of having an advantage and she started to really understand what Xiao Yao said. In the future no matter how many women Zhuan Xu had, Zhuan Xu would never be really himself with them because he was no longer himself. She was forever unique among all the women.
Ah Nian got increasingly calmer and a few times Xing Yue mentioned Zhuan Xu and how she was to him, Ah Nian wanted to snap back about how nice Zhuan Xu was to her but she saw the lazily sprawled Xiao Yao give her a look and Ah Nian shivered and whatever she was about to say went right back into her.
Afterwards Ah Nian was upset since she was afraid of her dad and Zhuan Xu gege but when did she become afraid of Xiao Yao as well? After Xing Yue left, Ah Nian asked Xiao Yao “Why did you glare at me? If she can talk about it, why can’t I?”
Xiao Yao breezily said “Is wine better right after it’s done or after it’s been stored for some time?”
Zhuan Xu learned how to make wine from the Grand Emperor for a long time and Ah Nian often assisted so she immediately said “Of course sealing and storing! A real good wine, the long its stored, the better it is!”
Xiao Yao waved her hand “Then you already know the answer.”
Ah Nian quietly thought about it and realized that what she experienced with Gege was life’s littlest things and shouldn’t be used to boast. Plus why should she let other women know how good Zhuan Xu was? Only she knows it, isn’t that even better?
Xiao Yao saw that Ah Nian understood and sighed “In this world, even the Heavens will envy the good things, the happy things. Such things is best kept to oneself. Taking it out to boast, if the Heavens heard it, maybe it’ll be taken away.” Xiao Yao didn’t know if the Heavens will take it away, but she knew others would try.
Ah Nian remembered her dad saying once “Since the dawn of time, the Heavens do not let people do as they wish”, which probably is what Xiao Yao meant now! Ah Nian said “I understand.”
Xiao Yao and Ah Nian lived at Little Zhu Rong’s residence for two months and by the time they left, Xing Yue and Ah Nian were friendly and chatty with each other. Even Xing Yue couldn’t believe it, was Ah Nian really the Princess who exploded at an instant? No matter how she tried to push Ah Nian’s buttons, Ah Nian remained calm and even appeared to have a mirth in her eyes like she was keeping a delightful secret. She started to have a little bit of Xiao Yao’s attitude.
Arriving at Zhi Jin Palace, Ah Nian was even nicer to Shu Hui than before, because in Ah Nian’s eyes only Xing Yue was a worthy competitor to her so Ah Nian didn’t pay any heed to anyone else.
Zhuan Xu was stunned and asked Xiao Yao “How did you do it?”
“Not me, she did it herself. A woman…..” Xiao Yao sighed “Would give her life for her man, who else can’t she do?”
Zhuan Xu heard the other meaning in Xiao Yao’s words and decided not to dig deeper and changed the subject to Xiao Yao “You no longer have any relationship with Jing. Feng Long tested me on whether you would consider him.”
“What?” Xiao Yao was stunned for a moment “Even though Jing is married, but I have no intention at this time of considering another man.”
Zhuan Xu was silent and then said “You treated Jing special but he didn’t stay true……he will regret it one day!”
Xiao Yao looked saddened “What good will his regret bring me? Since we can’t be together, better to forget it completely and go our separate ways!”
“You still haven’t forgotten him?”
Xiao Yao wanted to say “I forgot him!” but she couldn’t lie to herself. Since losing Jing she never slept through the night again.
She missed him! Her longing for Jing exceeded anything that anyone could have imagined, and it even shocked herself.
She thought she controlled everything so perfectly. Even if Jing left she could candidly accept it. But when it happened she realized that she thought too highly of herself. She could use her willpower to handle everything and control her behavior so she wasn’t angry, wasn’t upset, didn’t act out of turn, didn’t go see him, continued living as if nothing was the matter. But every night she couldn’t control her missing him.
One time she dreamed about Jing kissing her and it was as sweet as dew in her dream, but when she woke it was only bitterness in her mouth, even drinking honey water it turned bitter.
Xiao Yao didn’t want to remember and would rather not open her eyes and keep it tightly shut. All she could see would be them together and the memory was so clear and the warmth was still lingering on her lips. But everything was gone.
Every time she thought of him she would rather never see him or hear him speak. Everything about him no longer had anything to do with her. His presence would no longer be in her life. That kind of pain made Xiao Yao feel like she would rather live in a dream and never wake up.
Xiao Yao said in a low voice “I thought everything was under my control, but in truth feelings cannot be controlled.”
Zhuan Xu patted her back and sighed “I’ll drink with you!”
Xiao Yao wanted to get raging drunk “Sure!”
Zhuan Xu had Shan Hu go get some jugs of hard alcohol and two drinking bowls.
Xiao Yao toasted a big bowl with Zhuan Xu and he didn’t even blink an eye before pouring her bowl full again.
Xiao Yao started getting drunk and said to Zhuan Xu “You pick me a man!”
Zhuan Xu asked “What kind of man do you want?”
“My companion in life, dispel loneliness, nothing else matters. But the critical element is that he can’t have another woman! Otherwise I’ll castrate him!”
Zhuan Xu appeared to be lost in thought and the wine bowl was overflowing but he kept pouring. Xiao Yao laughed “Did I shock you? But I’m being serious!”
Zhuan Xu waved his hand and the wine spilled on the table disappeared into fog.
Xiao Yao picked up her bowl “Perhaps it’s like Grandfather said, love can only be encountered and cannot be forced. If one picks the right partner, then to grow old together in mutual respect isn’t hard. I no longer trust my choice so you pick one for me!”
Zhuan Xu said slowly “Okay, if you want then I’ll pick someone for you. If he can’t do what you require, then forget you castrating him, I’ll dice him into pieces first!”
Xiao Yao laughed and then sprawled drunkenly on Zhuan Xu’s lap “My Gege is the most reliable.”
Zhuan Xu held his bowl in one hand and his other hand stroked Xiao Yao’s end, but on his face was a smile filled with despair.
A year later, Fang Feng Yi Yang delivered a baby boy that the Grand Madam bestowed the name Zhen.
The Tu Shan Grand Madam saw Jing assume the clan leader mantle and saw that Hou would not compete for the leadership with Jing, and saw her great-grandson born. She finally lasted until everything she wanted came true.
Not a month after Tu Shan Zhen was born, the Grand Madam held Hou and Jing in each hand and peacefully passed with a smile on her face.
The courageous and stubborn woman who lost her husband young, then lost her son, lasted through the hundred year battle between Xuan Yuan and Sheng Nong, used her fragile body to protect the entire Tu Shan clan, after her passing the clan elders unanimously agreed the entire vast wilderness Tu Shan businesses would be in mourning for a month. It was the first time such an honor was bestowed on someone not the clan leader, but not a single Tu Shan clan member objected.
Zhuan Xu didn’t want Xiao Yao to have anything to do with Jing so didn’t tell her the Grand Madam passed. It was only when Xiao Yao went to deliver poisons to Xiang Liu at a Tu Shan clan messenger store that she learned of her passing.
When Xiao Yao treated her back then, she thought the Grand Madam would at most live a year. Who knew she would last another two more years. It was likely due to Hou and Jing’s filial care for her that she lasted until her great-grandson was born.
The Grand Madam died without any regrets, but did she realized she left many regrets in others?
Xiao Yao was in a daze when she returned to Sheng Nong Mountain and heard from Miao Pu “Se Mai Er is asking to see you. Xiao Xiao asked her to wait at the foot of the mountain but she appears to be anxious to leave.”
Xiao Yao took the cloud carriage down to see Se Mai Er.
When Se Mai Er saw Xiao Yao, she immediately kneeled and bowed and Xiao Yao assisted her up “I don’t leave the mountain much these days so I just learned of the Grand Madam’s passing. What are your plans now?”
Se Mai Er said “The Grand Madam left me a great boon before she passed, she permitted me to return to my home in Jiu Li and I wanted to say farewell to the Princess before I departed.”
Miao Pu pursed her lips “The Grand Madam finally did a good thing, but the Princess was planning to get you out of the Tu Shan clan no matter what after the Grand Madam passed.”
Xiao Yao rapped Miao Pu on the head “Don’t talk useless nonsense here! Go get the items with Shan Hu and bring it here for Se Mai Er.”
Se Mai Er said “No need! No need!”
Xiao Yao said “You left home young and will return old, you need to bring some gifts back.”
Se Mai Er said “The clan leader already gave me much.”
Xiao Yao’s eyes flashed a quick sadness and she smiled “The clan leader’s gesture is his, my gift is mine!”
Xiao Yao hesitated and then asked “After the Grand Madam passed, how is the Tu Shan clan leader doing?”
Se Mai Er said “He doesn’t look good. In the past he was eloquent and sociable, but in the last two three years other than smiling when being filial to the Grand Madam, I’ve never see him smile elsewhere.”
Xiao Yao hid her worry and said nothing. Se Mai Er knew Xiao Yao had something that went on with Jing and was afraid she was sad so changed the subject “After the Grand Madam passed, three days later Master Hou’s wife Lan Mu also passed.”
Xiao Yao thought and remembered that unassuming weak girl. In Qing Qiu, she saw her many times but she never spoke. Xiao Yao said “How can that be? She didn’t look ill.”
Se Mai Er said “It was apparently about Master Hou have a woman on the side. She likely said something and Hou struck her a few times. She committed suicide by taking poison. Word was that before she died, she tried to go talk to the clan leader for him to be the judge of things.”
Xiao Yao said “She’s a sad woman.”
Se Mai Er sighed “A woman’s biggest fear is to give her heart to the wrong man!”
Xiao Yao stared at the tea cup in her hand and said nothing.
Se Mai Er looked around to make sure they were alone and then said “The voodoo bug the Princess mentioned before, I thought and thought and still have no idea what it is. But I did remember a legend that circulated in Jiu Li about a very rare voodoo bug.”
Xiao Yao perked up and listened carefully “What kind of bug?”
Se Mai Er explained “Most voodoo bugs are parent-child bugs. The parent bug can control the child bug, and this kind of bug is easy to raise and easy to plant. But legend has it there is a rare extremely difficult to raise and plant bug. That bug has a gender difference and is split into a male bug and a female bug. It is hard to raise and even harder to plant. If a woman raised the bug, she needs to find a man to plant it. If a man raised the bug, he needs to find a woman to plant it. Almost always this bug is raised but cannot be planted even in a lifetime. So this bug remains just a legend in Jiu Li.”
“What kind of bug is it?”
“I don’t know what kind of bug it is but I do know its name. It’s called a Lover’s Bug and legend says “Lover’s Bug, Heart to Heart.” It sounds a lot like what Princess described.”
Xiao Yao was stunned and in a daze. She then asked “If a woman raised the bug, she needs to find a man to plant it in. But this world had plenty of men and women, how hard would it be to plant the bug! How could this bug be so hard to plant a lifetime could pass and it still wouldn’t be planted?”
Se Mai Er shook her head and said apologetically “I learned too little back then and listened to this but didn’t ask more questions thinking it just a legend. But our Voodoo King will know. If Princess has time, please visit Jiu Li! Even though the outside considers us scary evil people, but our people are actually quite wonderful!”
Xiao Yao said “When I have the chance, I will definitely visit Jiu Li.”
Se Mai Er said “I feel like the Princess has a special connected fate with Jiu Li. I hope that when I am still alive I will have the opportunity to greet you in Jiu Li, and if not then I will make sure my people treat you well when you come.”
Se Mai Er was already very old and this parting was likely forever and Xiao Yao suddenly felt a twinge of sadness.
Se Mai Er laughed “I’m already content. So many Jiu Li men and women die in foreign lands but I can return to my homeland all thanks to Princess.” She lived in the Tu Shan clan for so many years and knew a lot of its secrets. If the Grand Madam and Hou wasn’t wary of what Xiao Yao said about the voodoo spell, they wouldn’t have told Se Mai Er to make a blood vow before letting her return him. Likely her ending would have been another fate. Shan Hu and Miao Pu brought two big bags back and Se Mai Er accepted it and bid farewell to Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao watched until Se Mai Er’s figure was gone from sight and she turned to look East where Qing Shui Town was, and beyond that, where the vast ocean laid. Xiao Yao murmured “Lover’s Bug?”
Xiao Yao had so many thoughts going through her mind so she sent Shan Hu and Miao Pu back first so she could slowly walk up the mountain path back to Zhi Jin Summit.
Seeing the looming grandeur of the Palace, Xiao Yao suddenly felt extremely fatigued, so fatigued she might shatter. She wearily sat down on a stone step.
The mountain breeze was quite strong and she started to get cold but Xiao Yao still didn’t want to move. She stared in a daze as the sun set and the leaves continued to fall.
Zhuan Xu walked up behind her and draped his own cloak around her “What are you thinking of? An entire afternoon thinking and you still don’t have an answer?”
“I thought too much and couldn’t figure it out, so I stopped thinking. Actually, life is really futile, no matter how strong and powerful, there are two things in life that cannot be controlled.”
Zhuan Xu raised his eyebrow “Oh? What two things? Do share!”
“Life! Death! We can’t control our birth and can’t control our death. Sometimes I think since we can’t control the biggest two things in our lives, why fight for all the little insignificant things? It feels so pointless!”
Zhuan Xu laughed “Dummy, can’t you look at it from another angle? Because we can’t control life and death, we have to fight to control the others so that everything between life and death is fully under our control. For example, you’re not happy right now and I’ve decided that no matter what I will make you happy again.”
Because of the last thing Zhuan Xu said, everything felt meaningful again. There was a hint of laughter in Xiao Yao’s eyes but she pretended to be all stern and said “Fine, you make me happy then!”