A major breakthrough happens in chapter 28 of Lost You Forever and it’s not on the romance front. Zhuan Xu’s quest for the Xuan Yuan throne reaches a pretty startling decisive point and how it goes down is completely unexpected for everyone involved other than the still wily as a fox Yellow Emperor. One wonders if the formerly ambitious and demanding Yellow Emperor has somehow grown soft in his dotage, but it’s more like he’s come to see his legacy and his dreams from a different perspective. It’s sad to think that so much of the tragedy in Once Promised could have been averted if the Yellow Emperor had picked his succession with the same wisdom and resignation as he did today, but at least he did learn the hard lesson from losing so many of his beloved sons and daughter sacrificed to his empire-building expansion. He really did so much for the world and now it’s time to see if his successor can build upon his dreams and head towards another era of merging the Godly kingdoms under one rule.
On the Xiao Yao romance woes, her options are narrowing from two nearly perfect but utterly unattainable guys (at this point) to an arranged marriage that might fit all her practical needs but sounds as exciting as staring at paint dry. She’s a girl who is so scared and scarred from childhood identity and abandonment issues that her qualifications as a spouse is simply that he is never unfaithful to her. Granted she does have three men who love her more than that, but timing and issues stymie each of them. Jing would have done that and given her so much more in terms of companionship and romance. If Xiang Liu could get off his “I’m going down in flames with the Sheng Nong resistance army self-sacrificing high horse” he could give her everything Jing could and the pleasures of exploring the world together. Sadly a girl like Xiao Yao who deserves so much might end up settling for so little in terms of emotional fulfillment.
Chapter 28 – Yard Full of Spring Air, Worry at the Corner Wall:
The Yellow Emperor came to survey the Middle Plains and tradition required him to ascend Sheng Nong Mountain to pray to the Great Emperor Pan Gu, Fu Yi, Nu Wa, and the former Flame Emperors. Even two hundred years ago when he came and was almost assassinated, he still ascended Sheng Nong Mountain to hold a prayer ceremony before returning to Xuan Yuan Mountain. But this time he remained in Zhe Province and still hadn’t ascended Sheng Nong Mountain.
The Yellow Emperor staying for a day was yet another day the denizens of the Middle Plains lived in anxiety.
The Yellow Emperor finally scheduled a day for the prayer ceremony and announced he was going up to Zhi Jin Summit on Sheng Nong Mountain. But he didn’t hand the planning for this matter to Zhuan Xu who was on top of Sheng Nong Mountain and instead had Cang Lin handle it.
Because of the answers given by Cang Lin and Zhuan Xu last time, Cang Lin was certain he was the next Emperor.
One day Xiao Yao got Xing Yue’s invitation to visit Little Zhu Rong’s residence.
Since the Yellow Emperor came to the Middle Plains, Xing Yue never left home and never met with Zhuan Xu, so this time she proactively extended an invitation was a clear sigh to Xiao Yao that she had to go.
Xiao Yao arrived at the residence and Xing Yue brought her to a secret room where Feng Long was already inside.
Xing Yue smiled “I’ll go prepare the snacks, Gege you chat with Xiao Yao first.”
Xiao Yao was confused since she thought it was Xing Yue who wanted to talk to her, who knew it was Feng Long.
After Xing Yue left, Xiao Yao asked “You mysteriously called me here to talk about what?”
Feng Long grabbed his head and blushed, stammering for a bit while Xiao Yao smiled at him. He poured a bowl of wine and downed it before saying “Xiao Yao, marry me!”
“What?” Xiao Yao was dumbstruck.
Feng Long got the question out and could now talk freely “What do you think of us getting married?”
Xiao Yao felt her head spinning “You know Jing and I…..you are Jing’s best friend and good brother and you don’t mind?”
“What’s to mind? Everyone wants a good thing and I’m just sad he got you first. But he doesn’t have the fate to keep you and become your husband. I don’t like to beat around the bush so before asking you I already told him that I wanted to marry you. I said that if you agreed to marry me, I will treasure you and hope he can end all lingering feelings for you. You will only be his best friend’s wife from then now.”
“What did he say?”
“He said nothing but I can tell he’s distraught. But if you agree then I believe he will give us his blessing.”
Xiao Yao smiled and poured herself a bowl of wine to drink “Feng Long, why do you want to marry me?”
“You are pretty, have a fun personality, and can drink with me.”
Xiao Yao smiled “Those three reasons you can find with a prostitute at a brothel who does it all better than me.”
Feng Long laughed and shook his head “You…..you really are something! Saying stuff like that!”
“Then tell me your real reasons.”
“Those reasons are real, but there are indeed additional reasons. Zhuan Xu needs my help now and if I want to help him I need to become clan leader. But the clan elders think I am immature and rebellious so they are forcing my grandfather to teach me for tens more years. If I want to be clan leader immediately, I need to have a reason for the clan elders not to oppose me anymore, and there can be no better reason than you.”
“You want to marry me solely to help my Gege?”
Feng Long sighed “You really want to strip all the skin off me layer by layer! Fine, I also need you. I need you now to help me become clan leader, I need you later to cement my alliance with Zhuan Xu. Alliances can be formed for various reasons but none are as strong as a marital bond. You are the only granddaughter of the Yellow Emperor and the Silk Goddess Empress Lei Zhu as well as Zhuan Xu’s only little sister cousin. If I marry you, it means so much more and you can figure the rest out yourself.”
Xiao Yao said “It can also mean more trouble. Years ago the Grand Madam didn’t approve of me because she didn’t like the trouble I brought. I remember you Four Great Clans have a rule not to get involved in politics.”
Feng Long laughed “Xiao Yao, do I look like someone who abides by clan rules? If you are afraid my grandfather will object, I can assure you that he’s no Grand Madam. The Chi Sui clan is the head of the Four Great Clans and thousands of years ago Her highness Lei Zhu even borrowed soldiers from us! Without the Chi Sui clan’s assistance, there might not be a Xuan Yuan Kingdom today! If I want to marry you, my grandfather will be ecstatic!”
“Did you discuss terms with Zhuan Xu about marrying me?”
“I did and he told me that if I wanted to marry you, I need to swear that you will be the only woman in my life. He asked me to think carefully about it.” Feng Long pointed to himself “You’ve known me for tens of years, you ought to have some idea of my personality. I’m not all that interested in fun with the ladies and even if I play around it’s when the occasion requires it. If I marry you, I don’t mind my friends thinking I’m a wuss who is scared of my wife and won’t dare dawdle with other ladies. If you marry me, I will only have you in my life. I can’t promise to be all that tender and considerate, but I will do my utmost to be good to you.”
Xiao Yao finished her bowl of wine and sat there in silence saying nothing.
Feng Long poured her another bowl “I know I can’t match up to Jing and you won’t truly love me. But I really am most suited for you. We’re equal in family background, as long as you are willing both families will be happy to give us their blessings. You’re the best in terms of looks and personality but I’m not all that bad either. At least standing beside it, we will only be envied and no one will think a glorious flower is stuck in a pile of manure.”
Xiao Yao took a sip and spit out her wine in laughter. Feng Long took the bowl from her and handed her a handkerchief.
Feng Long said “Truthfully, even having these two reasons is hard enough in this world. There is no guarantee we won’t face conflict ahead but at least we will always be on the same side. We will both forever support Zhuan Xu so we won’t have the chance for a huge problem to arise between us. I know women want romance to be pure but sometimes you can think that all these unpure reasons are the invisible threads that bind us together tightly. It might even be stronger and tighter than pure romance. At least you know that I will never leave you! Because to betray you is to betray Zhuan Xu!”
Xiao Yao took the wine bowl back “Now I know why my Gege sends you to convince others to support him.”
Feng Long said “It’s not the same, sometimes I bullshit with them, but everything I just said to you is the truth.”
Xiao Yao said “This is so sudden and marriage is a once in a lifetime big decision. Let me think it over and I can’t answer you right away.”
Feng Long was happy “You didn’t reject me which means I still have a chance. Xiao Yao, I promise I will be really good to you!”
Xiao Yao was a bit sheepish “This feels rather weird, when people discuss marriage the girl always shyly hides in the back. Yet we’re talking openly like a business transaction.”
Feng Ling said “That’s why we’re made for each other! Honestly, I used to really not want to get married. But marrying you makes me feel like no matter what happens, we can sit down and calmly discuss it. Now I think having a wife is pretty swell. Sometimes we can even drink together and talk.”
Xiao Yao drank the wine and said nothing.
Feng Long kept Xiao Yao company and nibbled on some snacks before saying “I have matters to handle so need to be off first.”
Xiao Yao was used to it “No worries, go take care of your things.”
Feng Long got up to leave but seemed reluctant to go, he turned back to stare in entreaty “I really hope you agree.”
Xiao Yao nodded her head “I know, I will give you an answer soon.”
Feng Long tried hard to smile “But still no worries, we can still be friends regardless.”
After Feng Long left, Xing Yue invited Xiao Yao outside to have tea. The two sat on the pallet and Xing Yue brewed a cup of tea for Xiao Yao.
Xing Yue asked “How is Zhuan Xu these days?”
Xiao Yao replied “i can’t say he’s good but he appears the same as always. Sometimes after dinner he’ll take Shu Hui for a walk around the caves.”
Xing Yue said “If you really want to help Zhuan Xu, you need to marry my Gege.”
Xiao Yao stifled her smile and said nothing. If Xing Yue really wanted to help Zhuan Xu, why didn’t she marry him first?
Xing Yue brewed the tea and said “Initially with my Gege and I speaking for Zhuan Xu, we had already gotten the Six Big Families to agree to support him. But then the Cheng family and the Gong family had a conflict with Zhuan Xu over your attempted assassination. Other than Mu Fei, there was another man and woman, the woman was the fiancee of the Gong family eldest son and the man was the fiancee of the Cheng family daughter. My Gege and I tried to persuade Zhuan Xu to let those two live but he refused and killed them both thus leaving a feud with the Gong and Cheng families. The Gong son has tried in crazy ways to take vengeance plus there are many people in the Middle Plains harboring ill will towards Xuan Yuan. They don’t dare kill the Yellow Emperor so instead turn their target to Zhuan Xu. It started getting more and more dangerous so we needed to subdue them all. That is why Zhuan Xu chose to marry the Tan family daughter.”
The water boiled and Xing Yue placed the tea inside and then poured a cup for Xiao Yao “Even though Zhuan Xu marrying the Tan daughter wasn’t solely because of you, it still has some reason to do with you.”
Xiao Yao accepted the tea “I know how my Gege treats me so there is no need to convince me. I’m also not the type to know that my Gege did something for me and I’ll immediately go do something in return.”
Xing Yue smiled “I just thought you ought to know about this.”
Xing Yue picked up her cup and stared at her tea “One time I was talking to my Mom and she said a woman would encounter two types of men in her life. One is like fire and the other is like water. When we are young we want fire to burn us up. But in the end most women choose to live a long time with water, calm and placid, forever flowing. My Gege is not your fire to ignite your heart, but he ought to be able to be your water, calmly accompanying you until you are both old.”
Xiao Yao asked “Is my Gege your fire or water?”
Xing Yue replied “Xiao Yao, I’m not like my mother. She was the only daughter of the Chi Sui clan leader, raised in care and protection and she had the luxury of falling in love based on her heart. As for me…..I grew up in Xuan Yuan Castle like a noble but in the eyes of the Xuan Yuan nobles I was the descendant of the losing tribe. I was but a hostage used to keep my dad and grandfather in line. Do you know what it feels like to be a hostage?”
Xiao Yao stared and said nothing.
Xing Yue smiled “My mom thought I knew nothing and used all sorts of excuses for why we couldn’t live with my dad. But she never knew that the kids never kept secrets and they would repeat all the horrible things the adults said back to me. If the Yellow Emperor gave me an honor at a banquet, they would say afterwards that it was to keep my dad from rebelling. They said that if my dad rebelled, the Yellow Emperor would dice me into a thousand pieces. Do you know what being diced into a thousand pieces is like?”
Xing Yue laughed and shook her head “Do you know that for a period of time, I would pray for something before I fell asleep? I prayed my dad would never rebel because I didn’t want to be diced into a thousand pieces and have my heart and guts scooped out.”
Xing Yue’s voice was hard and she lowered her head to drink her tea and Xiao Yao followed suit.
After some time, Xing Yue lifted her head “I know you think I’m very calculating and sometimes even my Gege loses patience with me. But I can’t be like Ah Nian. In Xuan Yuan Castle I already vowed that I would never live like that again. I will stand above all on the highest spot.”
Xiao Yao said “Xing Yue, you don’t need to explain to me. This is between you and Zhuan Xu and he never blamed you.”
“He….he really said that?”
“Zhuan Xu was abandoned to Gao Xing to grow up for two hundred years. He knows it’s hard to stay alive and now I know he was likely understanding your reasons and doesn’t blame you one bit.”
Xing Yue drank her tea and said “No matter what it was like growing up in Xuan Yuan Castle, on the surface I still need people to respect me because I am the descendant of the Sheng Nong tribe. I have my pride and if Zhuan Xu wants to marry me, he needs to give me the grandest wedding ceremony. It’s not because I want it, it’s because this is what the Xuan Yuan tribe needs to give to the Sheng Nong tribe. Xiao Yao, do you understand? I am not just me, I represent the entire Sheng Nong tribe. I represent a tribe that lost in battle, I represent all the families of the Middle Plains, to bring pride and honor to the losing side! You can marry in a simple ceremony and no one will say anything because you are backed by the illustrious Gao Xing Kingdom so people will consider it your being carefree. But I can’t, if I have a simple wedding ceremony the world will consider it tied to our defeat and shame.”
Xiao Yao sincerely said “I didn’t understand before but I do now, and I’m sure Zhuan Xu understands even more than me.”
Xing Yue was a bit sheepish “I was only trying to persuade you to marry my Gege, not sure how talk turned to me.”
Xiao Yao laughed “It’s been awhile since we chatted like this, it’s great!”
Xing Yue said “When you were with Jing gege, I always knew you guys would break up. I can understand how Yi Yang feels because we both desire something far above us. She will never let him go and you can’t scheme over her. I tried hinting to you a few times but you appeared not to understand.”
Xiao Yao said “It’s all in the past now, no need to bring it up.”
Xing Yue said “Compared to Jing gege, it’s my Gege who is actually better suited for you.”
Xiao Yao smiled “Feng Long said a lot and I will sincerely consider his proposal.”
Xiao Yao looked at her empty cup and the waning light “I need to get back.”
Xing Yue said “I’ll walk you out.”
As they arrived at the cloud carriage Xing Yue added “Xiao Yao, everyone knows how close you are with Zhuan Xu. Your husband will have to also support him. My Gege’s position is very unique, he is Little Zhu Rong’s son but has the Chi Sui last name. If you marry him, you are the daughter-in-law of the Chi Sui clan, but you have to call Little Zhu Rong dad. If you and my Gege get married, I believe the Yellow Emperor will reconsider his choice of successor.”
Xiao Yao said “I will really consider it.”
Xing Yue urged “You need to hurry, time is of the essence!”
Xiao Yao carried the heavy pressure and boarded the cloud carriage. Returning to Zhi Jin Palace, Xiao Yao washed up and changed into a comfortable outfit and took a walk.
She told Xing Yue that she would consider it but she actually already made up her mind. She just needed to convince herself that her decision was for herself.
She arrived at a mulberry tree and remembered how she used to pick the leaves in the morning to bring it to the wooden hut to wash Jing’s hair in the afternoon. The tree was still here but the person was long gone.
Xiao Yao plucked two leaves and held it in her hand and silently continued on. She arrived at the edge of the cliff and could see in the distance Cao Ao Peak but it was covered in clouds.
She remembered in the wooden hut and the nights she didn’t want to waste sleeping so even if she yawned she still grabbed Jing to keep talking about whatever and it just made her happy.
The wooden hut was likely still there but the person who kept her company to talk was now a father.
Xiao Yao ripped the mulberry leaf in her hand into shreds and opened her hands to let it float away in the wind. The wind carried it into the air towards the clouds.
There was still the scent lingering in her hands and Xiao Yao stared at her palm: With Feng Long she would never rise early to get mulberry leaves; they would never just wash each other’s hair; she would never talk all night not wanting to waste the time on sleep because even if she wanted to talk Feng Long wouldn’t be interested in listening; if something happened they would talk openly and calmly, and if nothing happened then Feng Long would likely not be home a lot so when he was home he would be tired and wanted to rest; likely she would never lose her temper with Feng Long and the two of them would treat each other respectfully.
Actually it wasn’t that bad, if she had a problem she could discuss it with him; most of the time she would have a lot of freedom to plant a herb garden in the residence and open her own medical clinic since Feng Long hated rules so wouldn’t mind if his wife was a healer; when Feng Long came home they would have dinner and if he was out then she would eat alone.
If they had a child then she would be busy since she vowed to make her child her most important person after being abandoned by her mom. She would do everything for that little one so that whenever the little thing thought of mom it would be the sweetest memory of how good of a mom she was.
As the child grew up she and Feng Long would grow older.
Xiao Yao smiled, it really was like what her grandfather said, to pick a suitable person to grow old with wasn’t all that hard.
The sound of familiar footsteps reached her and Zhuan Xu sat down “What did Xing Yue say to you that you’re hiding here alone thinking?”
“She explained why she couldn’t marry you now and asked me to tell you so that you don’t blame her. I told her you really didn’t blame her and she said…..”
Zhuan Xu smiled “No need to explain, I already understand what she said.”
Xiao Yao sighed, Zhuan Xu could understand because he didn’t place hope and trust with Xing Yue hence he wasn’t disappointed. Xing Yue didn’t understand that she had lost the one chance she had to gain Zhuan Xu’s genuine trust and she would never get another chance again. But perhaps Xing Yue didn’t care, like she said, she wasn’t her mother so she didn’t care about romance.
Zhuan Xu said “Xing Yue couldn’t have called you just to explain that reason, what else did you guys talk about?”
“I saw Feng Long.”
“Did he ask you to pass word to me?”
Xiao Yao smiled and shook her head “He wanted to talk to me.”
Zhuan Xu’s smile froze on his face and Xiao Yao said “He proposed to me.”
Zhuan Xu silently stared at the rolling clouds in the distance and saw that it was covering Cao Ao Peak. No wonder Xiao Yao would be sitting here.
Xiao Yao stared at Zhuan Xu but couldn’t figure out what was on his mind “Gege, do you think I should marry Feng Long?”
“Do you want to marry Feng Long?”
“He vowed to have only me as his woman for his entire life. And promised to be good to me. I’ve known him for tens of years and know his personality. We can be friends and it can’t be hard to be respectful married couple.”
Zhuan Xu was still silent and said nothing and it wasn’t impossible to read what he was thinking.
Xiao Yao was perplexed “Gege, didn’t you ask me to give him a chance in the past?”
“Giving him a chance to pursue you and allowing you to marry him are two completely separate things.”
“You don’t want me to marry him?”
Zhuan Xu nodded his head, and then shook his head.
“What are you thinking, Gege?”
Zhuan Xu took a deep breath and smiled “I’m not thinking anything, this is just so sudden that I’m a bit muddled.”
“I’m muddled, too. In the beginning I was ready to just reject him but he was so sincere and I listen to his persuasion and thought about it and realized he made a lot of sense.”
“What did he say?”
“Stuff complimenting me and tooting himself! He said I was pretty with a nice personality and he can drink and talk with me. He said he wasn’t that bad either. Oh, and he said that we were well-matched and if we got married then everyone would bless us and things would work out.”
“Just that? He didn’t mention me?”
Xiao Yao smiled “He did but I don’t remember what specifically. Just stuff like you are his good friend and would be happy to see me with him.”
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao who suddenly felt transparent but kept up the pretense and asked “What are you trying to find out?”
Zhuan Xu said “I don’t want you to marry him because of me.”
“No way, of course I won’t! Feng Long is most suited for me because of our backgrounds and our personalities. It all matches.”
“Do you even care about that stuff? Do you want this yourself?”
Xiao Yao said “I really want you and dad to approve and bless me. Plus it’s important that he said that I would be his only woman in his life and be good to me. Gege, in the vast wilderness can I even find another guy better suited for me?”
Zhuan Xu said nothing and after a moment he laughed “There can’t be another guy more suited. Later on he will be my right hand man and you will be even closer to me. It’s easy for me to see you and if anything happened then I can take care of you. With me there, he can’t dare not be good to you!”
Zhuan Xu was sighing and laughing as if he figured something happy out “There really isn’t a better suited guy than him!”
Xiao Yao stood up and stared out at the cloud sea and took a deep breath. She finally made up her mind. She turned to face Zhuan Xu with her back to Cao Ao Peak “Gege, I agree to marry Feng Long!”
Zhuan Xu nodded “Fine.”
Xiao Yao smiled and grabbed his arm and headed back to Zhi Jin Court “I will have someone send a letter to dad and he’ll get it tomorrow morning.”
Zhuan Xu said “I’ll send someone to tell Feng Long. The Chi Sui clan leader needs to send someone immediately to Five Gods Mountain.”
Back at Zhi Jin Court, Zhuan Xu told Xiao Xiao about this and had her inform Feng Long immediately. Xiao Yao watched Xiao Xiao leave and sighed “I’m getting married!”
Zhuan Xu smiled “Yes, you’re actually getting married!”
Xiao Yao smiled “I’m going to write a letter to my dad so won’t have dinner with you. Have the maids send dinner directly to my room.”
Zhuan Xu smiled as he watched Xiao Yao’s figure disappear in the corridor. Suddenly his fist slammed into the tree next to him and the entire huge tree split in half and collapsed. Jin Xuan witnessed this scene and used her power so the fallen tree slowly rested on the wall.
Jin Xuan rushed over “Your highness?”
Zhuan Xu casually said “I accidentally struck the tree. Clean it up.” Zhuan Xu smiled “I hope you immediately erase this incident in your mind.”
Jin Xuan immediately knelt down “Yes.”
Zhuan Xu left and after he was gone Jin Xuan stood up and stared at the split open tree and then glanced towards Xiao Yao’s residence. She was a wood demon so quickly cleaned up the tree mess and even planted a same tree there. Without looking at it clearly it wasn’t evident anything happened here.
Feng Long figured Xiao Yao would likely agree but he didn’t think that talking to Xiao Yao in the morning would bring Xiao Xiao that evening with the response that Xiao Yao agreed to marry him. If the person delivering the message wasn’t Xiao Xiao, Feng Long would suspect it was a false message.
Feng Long once again felt grateful that he picked the right person, Xiao Yao’s fast decision making personality was as good as a guy.
Feng Long removed the jade he always wore around his waist and said to Xiao Xiao “This isn’t a very rare jade but I’ve worn it since I was small. Please give it to the Princess and ask her to wait for me.”
Xiao Xiao took over the jade “I will convey this to her.”
Feng Long didn’t have time to tell Xing Yue to the good news and immediately vaulted on his winged ride to rush home in the dead of night. He barged into his grandfather’s room which caused the old man to jump off the pallet in worry “What happened?”
Feng Long smiled “Something happened but it’s not bad but good. Your grandson is going to give you a granddaughter-in-law.”
The Chi Sui clan leader was stunned “Who?”
“The Gao Xing Eldest Princess.”
“What? You are marrying the granddaughter of the Yellow Emperor and Empress Lei Zhu who is also the disciple of the Royal Mother?”
The Chi Sui clan leader murmured “She’s the most eligible unmarried young woman in the entire vast wilderness. I can’t believe she ended up in our family. You have quite the ability!”
Feng Long smiled “But there is a catch.”
“What’s the catch?”
Feng Long said “I want to be clan leader. I want to marry her as clan leader with all the pomp and circumstance.”
The Chi Sui clan leader furrowed his brows “Did she ask for that?”
“Of course not! She’s the Gao Xing Eldest Princess, the Grand Emperor treats her like a precious treasure and she can get anything she wants. Why does she need to play games with me? I want it. You don’t want guests at the wedding discussing how I married my woman, do you? I want to give her the grandest wedding ceremony the Chi Sui clan can give her.”
The Chi Sui clan leader stared “Do you want to be clan leader, or you want to give her grand wedding?”
Feng Long smiled.
The Chi Sui clan leader already wanted to hand the position to Feng Long but the clan elders opposed it. But under these circumstances, they ought not object anymore. The clan leader rapped Feng Long on the head “You like this heavy burden, you take it! I’ve been wanting to enjoy a retirement. I know you have grand ambitions and one Chi Sui clan leader isn’t enough for you. I don’t object but you have to remember that you are responsible for what you do. You have to be responsible to the mom who bore you and to I who raised you.”
Feng Long knelt down and solemnly said “Grandfather, you enjoy your retirement, your grandson I won’t disappoint you.”
The Chi Sui clan leader helped him up and sighed “I’m old and don’t understand what you youngsters think and don’t care. If I have the luck then I will be able to see my great-grandson.”
Feng Long hurried said “Hurry up and summon all those old fogeys elders here to have an emergency session. And send someone to the Grand Emperor to officially ask for his daughter’s hand. We need to quickly get this marriage settled so I can be clan leader.”
The clan leader felt his head spinning with all of Feng Long’s requests “You…..fine! I’ll have one last bout of crazy with you!”
The Chi Sui clan leader had all the clan elders summoned in the middle of the night and each one rushed over within an hour and the entire group was assembled.
The Chi Sui clan leader explained everything to the clan elders and one asked Feng Long “Are you sure the Gao Xing Eldest Princess will agree to marry you? If she agrees, will the Grand Emperor agree?”
Feng Long impatiently retorted “You guys immediately send someone to ask the Grand Emperor and he will definitely agree.”
The elders could hear Feng Long’s confidence and that was the end of that topic. But another elder asked “Her identity is very unique, has the clan leader thought it through?”
The clan leader said “I’ve thought it through, to rise is to take risk and with this granddaughter-in-law our Chi Sui clan will only rise!”
The elders nodded their heads and accepted the Gao Xing Princess,
The clan leader saw all the elders had agreed “I want to send my third brother to Five Gods Mountain to ask the Grand Emperor for his daughter’s hand in marriage. We need to get this settled immediately. Now that I’m older, I want to rest and pass the clan leader position to Feng Long as well. Anyone have any objections?”
All the elders looked at each other and grew silent. Even the elders who wanted to object knew that Feng Long was going to be clan leader eventually and now by objecting they would get on his bad side and offend the princess. If they agreed, they can curry favor with Feng Long and later on ask the princess for help and resume making weapons for their clan.
All the elders spoke “We will abide by what the clan leader decides.”
The clan leader smiled “Good! I’ve sent people to prepare the gifts and tomorrow third brother will make the journey to Five Gods Mountain to propose marriage.”
Chi Sui Yun Tian was an easy going fellow who loved good food and had a rotund face which now smiled “This is a good task and this trip isn’t hard at all and I can even sample the Gao Xing royal kitchen’s delights.”
At dawn, Chi Sui Yun Tian took a convoy of gifts headed for Five Gods Mountain.
The Grand Emperor already read Xiao Yao’s letter but spent the day as if nothing happened as he did all his official business as usual. But that night he held her letter and walked outside until late.
Ah Heng, Ah Heng, are you willing to let Xiao Yao marry that boy from the Chi Sui clan?
The moon was silent, the shadow was silent, only the wind cried softly.
The Grand Emperor rarely thought about the past but he suddenly remembered so much of long ago – Qing Yang, Yun Zhe, Chang Yi…..each of their faces flitted through his mind and they were each still handsome and beautiful and strapping while he was a face full of weathered wrinkles and white hair.
Father, Zhong Rong….he killed all of them but they still lived on. No matter how much time passed, the Grand Emperor knew that his feet still stood in their pool of blood.
There was a time when people would happily call him Shao Hao. There was a time when people would angrily call him Shao Hao. But now, whether happy or angry, there was no one left to call him Shao Hao even once. His only name remaining was the Grand Emperor who no longer felt happiness or anger.
The Grand Emperor looked up at the sky full of stars and slowly closed his eyes.
The following day Chi Sui Yun Tian arrived to ask the Grand Emperor for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Grand Emperor smiled and agreed.
Chi Sui Yun Tian sent a letter back to Chi Sui that the marriage was approved. Preparations were underway to send massive marital gifts to the Gao Xing Princess while also preparing the clan leader initiation ceremony for Feng Long.
Feng Long insisted on being clan leader before he officially had the engagement ceremony with the Gao Xing Princess and everyone understood why. No man wanted to think that he became clan leader because of his wife. Since it was already a done deal, no one wanted to offend the future clan leader and wife so no one objected.
Not a lot of guests were invited due to the time and the Chi Sui clan leader held a similar ceremony to the one held by the Tu Shan clan for Jing’s initiation. Only the Xuan Yuan, Gao Xing, and Sheng Nong three god tribes were invited along with the other three clans in the Four Great Clans, and the Middle Plains Six Great Families.
The ceremony took place as Feng Long assumed the mantle of clan leader, followed a month later as the Grand Emperor and the new Chi Sui clan leader Chi Sui Feng Long announced his engagement to the Gao Xing Eldest Princess Gao Xing Jiu Yao.
Soon the news spread through the vast wilderness and the entire world was abuzz. The Gao Xing Eldest Princess still lived in Zhi Jin Palace on Sheng Nong Mountain and was still as close as can be with Zhuan Xu. Her marriage to the Chi Sui clan leader indicated the Chi Sui clan would officially support Zhuan Xu. And Feng Long was also Little Zhu Rong’s son so what did that mean for the Sheng Nong tribe?
Feng Long and Xiao Yao’s engagement attracted enough interest to cover over the Yellow Emperor going to Sheng Nong Mountain to pray to the Heavens. Even the people supporting Cang Lin decided to lay low and survey the situation first.
Then the Tan family head held a banquet inviting Zhuan Xu, the Chi Sui clan leader Feng Long, the Tu Shan clan leader Jing, the son of the Xi Ling clan leader, and the messenger of the Gui Fan clan. The Tan family’s relationship to Zhuan Xu was tied to marriage and the Xi Ling clan was clear in support while the Gui Fang clan dropped clear hints at Zhuan Xu’s wedding. Their presence at the banquet was expected but to unexpectedly see both the Tu Shan and Chi Sui clan leaders there was a shocking but clear sign.
The entire vast wilderness was on fire with talk – this was the first time since the dawn of time that the Four Great Clans united to openly support one Prince in vying for the throne.
With the Four Great Clans and the Tan family leading the pack, days later the rest of the Middle Plains Six Big Families other than the Gong family all held a banquet to host Zhuan Xu and also in attendance was many of the other smaller families.
Initially the Gong family head turned down attending but after hearing of how festive it was, he started to the get angsty. Then Feng Long asked for a secret meeting and told him about the Yellow Emperor’s question to Cang Lin and Zhuan Xu that day about how each would treat the Middle Plains and then how each answered differently.
Feng Long said “Is your eldest son’s vengeance more important or the future fate of the entire Middle Plains? Please think carefully.”
After Feng Long left, the Gong family head grabbed his second son and rushed to the banquet.
That banquet lasted late into the night and soon word spread of that conversation between the Yellow Emperor and Zhuan Xu and Cang Lin. The Sheng Nong tribe didn’t appear but everyone knew that the head of the Middle Plains the Sheng Nong tribe had to have consented otherwise so much would not be openly taking place.
Since the Yellow Emperor defeated Sheng Nong and united the Middle Plains, the families in the Middle Plains felt downtrodden and this was the first time they united as a form of defiance and entreaty to the Yellow Emperor to show their choice.
The Yellow Emperor ascended Sheng Nong Mountain to prepare for the prayer ceremony. He was old and after a busy morning, he sent Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao away so he could take an afternoon nap.
Inside a secret room, Zhuan Xu’s followers were begging him to take this opportunity. Right now all of Zhi Jin Palace was teeming with the Yellow Emperor’s own guards, but this was also the place Zhuan Xu spent the last tens of years developing his base. He had soldiers who knew this area and were deathly loyal to him and had already prepared secret passageways. The Yellow Emperor’s guards may be ferocious and loyal but they only knew Xuan Yuan Mountain well. The Xuan Yuan army was stationed right next to the mountain but if the strike was fast they wouldn’t get here in time. Once Zhuan Xu became the next Emperor, the army would listen to him since the army was loyal to Xuan Yuan and not necessarily the Yellow Emperor.
Zhuan Xu neither agreed with nor rejected the option, only telling his followers to be ready for anything.
After a nap, the Yellow Emperor awoke refreshed and summoned Cang Lin and some officials to hear what was prepared for tomorrow. Seeing Cang Lin did well with the preparations, the Yellow Emperor was in a good mood and even complimented him that as long as he did what was within his purview, the rest will fall in line.
Because of the Four Great Clans and the Middle Plains families recent activities, Cang Lin had been anxious but now he finally relaxed and walked out happy.
The Yellow Emperor summoned Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao to see him and only chatted about random matters. Zhuan Xu was the way he always was, mature and thoughtful, whereas Xiao Yao was the one feeling fidgety.
The Yellow Emperor teased her “Are you missing that Chi Sui clan boy? You’ll see him tomorrow.”
Xiao Yao asked “Grandfather, how is your health these days?”
The Yellow Emperor replied “The entire vast wilderness wants to know the answer, they want to know how long this piece of creaky bones has to live.”
He smiled at Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao “How long do you guys want me to live?”
Zhuan Xu respectfully said “Your grandson wants you to be healthy and witness your greatest dream come true.”
The Yellow Emperor flashed a gleam in his eye “No matter what I announce tomorrow, you still want me to be healthy and live long?”
Zhuan Xu calmly answered “Yes.”
The Yellow Emperor smiled at Xiao Yao “And you?”
Xiao Yao said “You don’t trust me so you won’t trust whatever I say. Do I even need to answer?”
The Yellow Emperor sighed “It’s true I don’t dare have you treat me. You guys leave! Tomorrow is a busy day so get some rest.”
Xiao Yao walked out and mulled over what was said and her grandfather’s words could be explained as wanting Cang Lin to be the next Emperor so he didn’t want Xiao Yao to treat him. Or it could be he hadn’t made up his mind yet.
Xiao Yao whispered “Tomorrow, do you think grandfather will announce Cang Lin as the next Emperor?”
“Grandfather’s actions have been strange lately. No one can tell what he’s going to do until the very last second.”
“What are you going to do?”
Zhuan Xu asked “Do you have medicine to make people sleep around twelve hours?”
“I do.” Xiao Yao handed two pills to Zhuan Xu.
He took them “Go get some rest, I need you bright and energetic tomorrow!”
Zhuan Xu saw Xiao Yao walk off and said in a low voice “Xiao Xiao.”
Xiao Xiao walked out from the shadow and Zhuan Xu handed her the two pills “Give this secretly to the Princess.”
“Yes.” Xiao Xiao immediately disappeared into the shadows again.
Zhuan Xu thought that no matter what his grandfather decided there would be an outcome tomorrow. Xiao Yao, there is already so little your Gege can do for you, I don’t want you to watch the blood of your relatives being spilled!
That night, many eyes remained wide open unable to sleep.
Zhuan Xu’s followers remained kneeling as they begged Zhuan Xu to rebel tonight and don’t let the Yellow Emperor announce tomorrow his decision. Once Cang Lin was announced as the next Emperor, Zhuan Xu would be in danger. The more supporters of Zhuan Xu there are, the more Cang Lin would want to eliminate Zhuan Xu.
Zhuan Xu dismissed them but they wouldn’t leave and both sides were at a stalemate. They knelt and Zhuan Xu sat there silently. They knew they were forcing Zhuan Xu but they didn’t want him to miss this opportunity.
When the rooster crowed Zhuan Xu appeared to snap out of it and stood up. Yu Jiang said in entreaty “Your highness, this is the last chance!”
Zhuan Xu said “I already decided, everyone is dismissed.”
Zhuan Xu said to Xiao Xiao “Assist me to wash up and change into the prayer ceremony robes.”
The secret guards left through the secret passageways and remained perplexed. They didn’t know why the usually decisive Zhuan Xu would let this prime chance pass him by.
Zhuan Xu washed up and changed into the prayer robes with Xiao Xiao and Jin Xuan’s assistance. After he was ready, he went to greet the Yellow Emperor but before leaving he asked Xiao Xiao “How is the Princess?”
“Miao Pu gave her the pills and she’s been sleeping soundly since.”
“Send guards to watch over her and should anything happen, escort her out of the secret passageway.”
Zhuan Xu arrived at the Yellow Emperor’s residence to find Cang Lin already there anxiously waiting. Zhuan Xu politely greeted him but got back a cold shoulder, Cang Lin wasn’t even bothered to put up a pretense anymore.
Inside the Yellow Emperor was being dressed in formal robes and then he walked out flanked by his guards. Cang Lin and Zhuan Xu walked up to flank him and greet him respectfully. Cang Lin nervously tried to curry favor worried that the Yellow Emperor would change his mind at the last minute. Zhuan Xu was calm as if today as just an ordinary day like any other day.
Cang Lin and Zhuan Xu accompanied the Yellow Emperor to the prayer dais where the two sides were already filled with Xuan Yuan officials, the leaders of the clans and families, with the leaders of the Four Great Clans standing at the forefront.
The auspicious hour arrived and with the cheers of the people the Yellow Emperor led the denizens of the Middle Plains and Xuan Yuan to pray to the Heavens and to their ancestors Pan Gu, Fu Yi, Nu Wa, and finally to the former Flame Emperors.
It was already noon by the time the long ceremonial rites wrapped up.
The Yellow Emperor stood on the dais and looked down at everyone below. He may be old and weathered but he still had the powerful presence of his youth and no one below dared to think lightly of this wizened old man.
The Yellow Emperor’s old but still powerful voice boomed so loudly everyone could hear “Did you all come today not just to pray but because you all heard I was planning to announce something important? What do you all think it is?”
No one dared to answer.
The Yellow Emperor said “You all heard I was going to announce the successor to the throne today?”
Everyone sucked in their breath to listen carefully so as to not miss a single word.
The Yellow Emperor said “You all heard wrong – today I am not announcing who the successor is.”
The collective mood dropped but then relief swelled since nothing scary and dramatic was also going to happen.
Can Lin and Zhuan Xu stood right below the Yellow Emperor and Cang Lin stared in disappointment at the Yellow Emperor while Zhuan Xu remained placid and expressionless.
The Yellow Emperor smiled and his eyes glanced over everyone and he said “I will announce who will become the next Xuan Yuan Emperor today.”
The crowd hadn’t get gotten over the shock of hearing a successor wasn’t going to announced so it took moments before the even more shocking announcement was processed. Everyone glanced around wondering if anyone misheard but saw the same dumbstruck expression all around confirming no one misheard.
The Yellow Emperor appeared to enjoy the dramatic expressions appearing on the faces in the crowd and waited until everyone absorbed what he said and was gaping at him. He then said “Today we are here to pray to Pan Gu, Fu Yi, Nu Wa, and the Flame Emperor. From the dawn of time there have been countless rulers and emperors. But why do only the four of them deserve to be remembered and revered by the world? I keep asking myself that question. I spent my life fighting to bring peace and happiness to countless people, but I also brought pain and suffering to countless people. On Cao Yun Court, I often think about how the world will remember me after I am dead. I want the world to someday think that the Xuan Yuan Yellow Emperor is also worthy of their remembrance and prayer. There is still much I want to do, many dreams I have yet to accomplish. I want the world to see that I have brought my people and my descendants peace and prosperity. I also want all the god tribes to live in equality and chose their own path in life. I want the Middle Plains people to be like the people of the Northwest and Southeast who love and respect me. I want the lowly people to have their kids have a chance to become great heroes. But I am gradually aging while the Xuan Yuan Kingdom is heading towards its pinnacle. It needs a new ruler, and this ruler needs to have vast ambition, sharp intelligence, boundless energy, and great capacity for compassion. Only with such a ruler can he lead the Xuan Yuan Kingdom to create its own history, build a brighter future. In this world people only know how to grab their own desires and very few know when to let go and let others take the stage. I am giving myself a good ending by giving another a good beginning. I have already nurtured the best next ruler for Xuan Yuan and now I have chosen to step down from the throne. I will let the new ruler accomplish the dreams that I still have yet to achieve.”
Everyone stared at the Yellow Emperor and everyone who was standing there hearing this speech was each standing at the peak of their own power. They understood more than any ordinary person what the Yellow Emperor meant. Sometimes letting go was the hardest yet the Yellow Emperor was letting go now. This man, in his prime he stunned the entire vast wilderness with his accomplishments, and now in his dotage he continued to stun all with his decisiveness.
The Yellow Emperor stared tenderly at Zhuan Xu and said “Zhuan Xu, come here.”
Cang Lin wanted to scream: Father, you’re choosing wrong! But he discovered that he was wrapped in a powerful grip and could not make a sound. He could only stare in rage and despair as he watched Zhuan Xu slowly walk up to the Yellow Emperor and kneel down.
The Yellow Emperor took off his crown and placed it securely on Zhuan Xu’s head. Zhuan Xu raised his head to stare at the Yellow Emperor and there were tears in his eyes.
The Yellow Emperor raised Zhuan Xu up and announced to the world “From now on, Xuan Yuan Zhuan Xu is the Emperor of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom. Perhaps you all think I am too casual about this coronation which is not worthy of the ascendance of the ruler of a nation. But I want you all to remember that whether it was Fu Yi or Nu Wa or even the Flame Emperor, no one took the throne in a lavish ceremony. The world will not remember a ruler because how pompous the ceremony was, the will remember a ruler for what he did in his lifetime.”
The Yellow Emperor walked off the dais and perhaps it was due to being so busy all morning so his steps were uneven. Two servants rushed to assist this all white-haired old man and he took their arms and walked through the two rows of guests.
No one announced a bow and by now the Yellow Emperor had removed his crown, but as he passed everyone knelt down and lowered their heads, willingly bowing to this weak old man.
It was the first time all the men standing at the peak of their own power bowed to him not because of his greater power but because they so respected him.
This man created one legendary feat after another. He broke the power stratus between the gods, the humans, and the demons. He told everyone that they were all equal. He shattered the belief that only royalty and nobles had all the chances in life, he proved that even the most ordinary of men could achieve the impossible. It was only what one dared to achieve so that even the most ordinary of men could become a hero. And now, he was creating yet another legend before their eyes.
You can hate this man, you can attack him and curse him, but even his enemies could not deny that his greatness was something they had to hold up.
Until the Yellow Emperor completely vanished from sight did everyone stand back up. It was dead silent on and below the prayer altar.
No one could believe that there wasn’t a blood bath or interminable wait and suddenly Zhuan Xu assumed the throne just like that?
But Zhuan Xu was standing right before them and staring calming down at them.
Was this young Emperor really like the Yellow Emperor said? Could he bring so much to lead a kingdom to greater heights and write its own glorious new pages in history?
It wasn’t clear who knelt down first but soon everyone was on their knees and chanting “Felicitations to Your majesty!”
Zhuan Xu waved his hand “Everyone rise.”
The Yellow Emperor heard the sound of cheers from behind him and smiled as he stared towards the distance ahead of him.
Many years ago when the Xuan Yuan Kingdom was being established, he stood on a dais with Ah Lei and held a totally ramshackle coronation ceremony. His followers and buddies weren’t the well raised and educated officials of today who could chant in unison. Back then the chants were all over the place and came in all sorts of random calls. One former bandit demon even said “Hope our King can lead us guys to grab more territory, and then lead us to grab some women to bear kids for us.” Even the Yellow Emperor winced at such bawdy talk but Ah Lei didn’t mind and merely laughed.
The Yellow Emperor sighed. All his followers and buddies on and off the dais that day have long ago left. Many of those people, even when he joined them in death, they would not want to see him ever again. But today he can finally face them candidly and proudly tell them that the Xuan Yuan Kingdom they built together with their own hands had been handed to the most suitable person.
Ah Lei, Ah Lei, he’s our grandson! He’s not only like me, he’s also like you!
Xiao Yao walked up to her grandfather and waved to the servants who all moved aside and she assisted him. He turned and smiled at Xiao Yao “From tomorrow on help treat me, I want to live longer.”
“Sure.” Xiao Yao smiled “Grandfather, you really pulled a fast one today and toyed with the entire world.”
The Yellow Emperor chuckled loudly “Sometimes being a ruler is very dull so one needs to create amusement.”
Xiao Yao hesitated and then asked “Since Grandfather has already decided to hand the throne to Zhuan Xu, why didn’t you tell him. Why….aren’t you worried Gege might…..”
The Yellow Emperor smiled “Are you talking about the secret soldiers Zhuan Xu has stashed in Sheng Nong Mountain?”
Even knowing this old man was no longer the Emperor of the Kingdom, Xiao Yao still stiffened and stammered “So Grandfather was aware of everything.”
The Yellow Emperor patted Xiao Yao’s hand “No matter what Zhuan Xu did he will be the next ruler and I will pass the throne to him. The result will be the same so the process doesn’t matter.”
Xiao Yao was stunned, her Grandfather didn’t care that Zhuan Xu could have led an army to snatch the crown by force?
The Yellow Emperor smiled “If he snatched the crown by force, it means I raised him too well. He’s too much like me, and would be a decisive ruler willing to pick up arms when necessary. But I’m very happy because he’s not only like me, he’s also like your grandmother. He has a side that can kill, but also a side that is compassionate. I hope with both sides he can bring greater peace to the world.”
Xiao Yao felt like this Yellow Emperor was different than the Yellow Emperor in her memory, and she liked this one more.
The Yellow Emperor asked “Where did you go during the ceremony? I didn’t see you and thought Zhuan Xu had you stashed somewhere safe.”
Xiao Yao laughed “Gege really was raised by you! He tried but who am I? He’s the grandchild of the Yellow Emperor and Empress Lei Zhu but so am I! I merely used that to let him focus on his task and not worry about me.”
The Yellow Emperor shook his head with a smile “And what were you planning to do?”
“I hid, and I……I decided that if you were to announce Uncle Cang Lin as the next Emperor, I would immediately assassinate Uncle Cang Lin.”
The Yellow Emperor sighed “You really are my blood!”
Xiao Yao made a face at him.
The Yellow Emperor said “Cang Lin, Yu Yang, your cousins, they are not bad people merely standing at different at odds positions. Now that the fight for the throne is at an end, I hope you can face them with a different attitude.”
“As long as they don’t harm Zhuan Xu, I will treat them well.”
The Yellow Emperor said “Thank god Zhuan Xu has greater capacity than you and can accept them all.”
“Grandfather, where are you going to live now? Back to Xuan Yuan Mountain?”
“I can’t go back to Xuan Yuan Mountain. Zhuan Xu just assumed the throne and the Middle Plains people will clamor for his attention leaving the people of the North and West feeling slighted. If I go back now, it will appear there are two rulers in the Kingdom. I decided to abdicate then I’m stepping down completely! There is no need to cause misunderstanding and leave Zhuan Xu’s followers nervous. I will remain in Sheng Nong Mountain and wait until Zhuan Xu brings all the tribes and clans in line before considering whether to go back to Xuan Yuan.”
“The people of Xuan Yuan all follow Grandfather, you can bring them in line with one word!”
“Zhuan Xu has the ability to bring the Middle Plains to support him and he can bring those other clans to support him. He’s still the grandson of Ah Lei and myself. As long as those people don’t betray Xuan Yuan then they will never betray Zhuan Xu. But they will be resentful and will often be angry at Zhuan Xu and find ways to thwart him. It’s like having two kids in the family and both will be jealous of the other.”
Xiao Yao nodded and the Yellow Emperor continued “If Zhuan Xu knows what they are feeling then he will use this opportunity to transform their anger into acceptance. Then he will truly show that he is worthy of the praise I gave him today. Whether it’s Xuan Yuan or Sheng Nong, it’s now all his people. He cannot play favorites and must treat them as equals. He cannot favor the Middle Plains people because they helped him.”
Xiao Yao said “I have faith in Gege.”
The Yellow Emperor smiled “Let’s stay on Sheng Nong Mountain and slowly watch him become a good ruler!”
Zhuan Xu finished all his tasks and hurried back to Zhi Jin Court to see the Yellow Emperor. The servant announced him but Xiao Yao walked out “Grandfather is sleeping now.”
Zhuan Xu stared “You….”
Xiao Yao rolled her eyes “I what? If I got drugged by my own pills then that would be the joke of the century.”
Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao walked out of the Yellow Emperor’s residence and towards his residence. Xiao Yao said “Right, Grandfather wants you to move to the former residence of the Flame Emperor Qian An Court.”
Zhuan Xu thought about it “That makes sense.”
Xiao Yao smiled “Congratulations.”
Zhuan Xu replied “Same back.”
Xiao Yao asked in a low voice “Why wait? What if Grandfather chose Cang Lin today, wouldn’t you regret it?”
Zhuan Xu “Every choice is a gamble and I can only say I gambled correctly. As for the rest, it’s now all been decided so no need to discuss.”
Xiao Yao said “Grandfather won’t be going back to Xuan Yuan yet so from tomorrow on I will help him fix his health.”
Zhuan Xu said “You take good care of Grandfather.”
“Yu Yang, Cui Liang and them are all still on Xuan Yuan Mountain. What if they try something?”
“Before Grandfather came he already had everything prepared. General Yin Long is guarding Xuan Yuan Castle and likely this morning Grandfather sent word back telling Yin Long he was abdicating so Yin Long will make sure those guys don’t try anything. This time Grandfather coming to the Middle Plains he brought a lot of generals, on the surface he’s cowing the Middle Plains but now he’s also showing the leaders of the army that they are not loyal to the Emperor but need to be loyal to the Xuan Yuan Kingdom.”
“That’s good.” Xiao Yao fully relaxed.
Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao entered the court to find everyone waiting for them, Xiao Xiao, Jin Xuan, Yu Jiang…..they all knelt and exclaimed “Felicitations to Your majesty!”
Zhuan Xu bade them to rise “Thank you all for walking this far with me. The future will be tough and I still need everyone’s support.”
Everyone smiled and nodded their heads. Yu Jiang said “The future path will be tough but the path before today was the most pressure-filled and darkest path of all.”
The maids poured wine for everyone and Zhuan Xu toasted and drank with his subordinates. Yu Jiang knew Zhuan Xu had a lot to do so took his leave and everyone else followed suit.
Zhuan Xu watched them leave and said to Xiao Yao “I invited Feng Long and them here. You come drink with us so that Feng Long won’t complain.”
Xiao Xiao and Jin Xuan smiled “Since getting engaged, the Princess hasn’t seen the Chi Sui clan leader yet right?”
“I’m going to change.” Xiao Yao smiled as she ran off.
With Xiao Xiao and Jin Xuan’s assistance, Zhuan Xu changed into an everyday outfit after washing up. After he was ready, the servant came to announce that Feng Long and others were here. He sent someone to summon Xiao Yao.
Zhuan Xu brought Xiao Yao to the inner court where five people were already sitting at their seats. From the left there was the Chi Sui clan leader Feng Long, next to him was Xing Yue, on the right was the Tu Shan clan leader Jing, next to him was Xi Ling Chun, and beside Chun was the older brother of Shu Hui Tan Shu Tong.
Everyone stood up when Zhuan Xu arrived. He walked towards them and sat down at the top center seat and automatically gestured for Xiao Yao to sit beside him.
It was fine sitting with Zhuan Xu at the same seat before but now was not like before. Xiao Yao didn’t want to sit at the same level as Zhuan Xu in front of others and said to the servant “Add another seat next to Xing Yue.”
No one said anything but Xing Yue laughed “Why bother? You should just sit next to my Gege.”
Everyone smiled at Feng Long and Xiao Yao except for Jing and Zhuan Xu, both of them stared down at the wine cup before them.
Xiao Yao lowered her head and said nothing. Feng Long glanced at Xing Yue who didn’t continue to tease Xiao Yao.
After Xiao Yao sat down, Feng Long coughed lightly and adopted a very formal attitude and said to Zhuan Xu “The messenger from the Gui Fang clan has left, they are a very mysterious clan so never really get involved in what happens in the vast wilderness. So you……shouldn’t mind.”
Zhuan Xu said “Why would I mind. They have helped me greatly plus I know how they work.”
Zhuan Xu stood up and raised his cup “I’ll dispense with the unnecessary talk – Thank you all!” Zhuan Xu downed his wine and bowed to everyone.
Everyone then stood up and drank their wine and bowed back to Zhuan Xu before sitting down again.
Feng Long smiled “It’s been such a roller coaster with the recent events and I still feel like it’s a dream.”
Shu Tong laughed “You’ve become clan leader and got engaged, it really is one happy dream after another, no wonder you don’t want to wake up.”
Chun and Xing Yue laughed while Feng Long glanced at Xiao Yao. She happened to be looking at him which made Feng Long smile.
Because everything was settled and everyone was relieved and happy, the conversation and wine flowed freely and soon all the wine brought up was finished.
It wasn’t clear just how much Jing drank but he was the first drunk. Chun also got drunk and started fussing about hearing Jing play the zither. Jing didn’t decline and instead hollered “Bring a zither!”
The servant brought a zither and Jing stroked the strings before proceeding to play. The tune was familiar – it was the song that Xiao Yao sang and danced for Jing, Xing Yue, and Feng Long that night in the evergreen forest.
The others had never heard it before so didn’t realize any connection, with Shu Tong even joking “Who knew getting Jing drunk could hear him play. If so we would have gotten him drunk long before.”
Xiao Yao, Xing Yue, and Feng Long all had very awkward looks on their faces.
Xing Yue saw that Feng Long’s expression was getting more and more upset and said “Jing gege, you’re drunk, stop playing!”
Jing appeared to not hear anything because his attention was all on the tune he was playing. Since parting, unending longing, no where to turn, only after getting drunk could I see you in the tune of my zither.
It was touching and despairing, making even the audience listening feel the sorrow.
Shu Tong and Chun started to sense something was off and stopped joking.
Feng Long suddenly slammed his fist and sent a water blade flying towards the zither and sliced it in half. The tune stopped abruptly and Jing stood up as if nothing was wrong and walked towards Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao raised her cup of wine “Jing, drink it.”
Jing stared at Xiao Yao and smiled, taking the wine and drinking it without hesitation like he did years ago.
Jing collapsed on the pallet passed out drunk.
Zhuan Xu said “Tonight’s banquet ends here! Jing has things on his mind and was a bit off after getting drunk, everyone please let it go.”
Chun and Shu Tong understood and stood up to say their farewells before leaving.
Feng Long angrily jerked Jing up and carried him out with Xing Yue staying behind.
Xiao Yao raced up to Feng Long “Feng Long, Feng Long!”
Feng Long stopped and Xiao Yao asked “Still angry?”
“My anger comes fast and goes fast! I know he was drunk and didn’t mean to, but……”
Feng Long was stricken “When Jing came to my clan leader initiation ceremony and I told him that you agreed to marry me, he congratulated me and I thought he let it all go. But tonight, he was drunk and acted out of sorts but I’ve known him since we were small and have never ever seen him like this. I’m your fiancee but I suddenly have this guilty feeling like I stole something he loved dearly.”
Xiao Yao stared at the passed out Jing “Don’t feel that way.”
Feng Long waved his hand “No, no, don’t misunderstand. I know how to handle Jing. I was worried you heard him play tonight and started to regret it.”
Xiao Yao said “I have no regrets. I’ve been wandering alone since I was small and on the surface I seem very carefree but I’m actually very weary of wandering. I want to stop, I want to have a home. But the people I meet – the one with the feelings has no ability, the one with the ability has no feelings – only you are willing to give me a safe harbor where I can anchor myself and stop. Thank you!”
“Xiao Yao….” Feng Long wanted to caress her cheek and press away the furrowed worry in her brows, but the confident him actually felt scared and didn’t dare. He said in a low voice “Don’t worry, as long as you don’t regret it, I won’t regret it!”
Xiao Yao smiled and Feng Long smiled back.
Feng Long said “I think Xing Yue will be hanging with your Gege for a bit longer so I won’t wait for her and take Jing back first. Tomorrow I need to rush back to Chi Sui. Zhuan Xu suddenly assumed the throne and the entire clan must be in a tizzy. I need to go back and settle things down.”
Xiao Yao said “Have a safe trip.”
Feng Long scratched his head “Do you want anything? Next time I come see you I’ll bring it for you.”
Xiao Yao said “You being safe is the best present, don’t worry about tending to me. Now that my Gege is the Emperor, there are many out there not happy with this turn of events. You guys have a lot of take care of. Go handle your tasks!”
Feng Long happily said “Then I’m off now.”
Xiao Yao watched until the cloud carriage disappeared into the sky before the smile on her face gradually disappeared.
A gift was such a strange thing. If she had to say what she wanted, then it wasn’t the same getting it anymore. Actually, it didn’t matter what the present was, it mattered what the giver meant. If someone was in the heart, then that person would naturally want to share everyday things with the other so even a wild flower or a rock could be a present.
Xiao Yao leaned against the railing and looked up at the sky. She suddenly remembered her life in Qing Shui Town, the countless muggy Summer nights when they sat outside on the straw pallet, with Lao Mu, Ma Zi, Chuan Zi all jostling with each other, and Shi Qi sitting quietly next to her as she gnawed on a duck neck and drank her plum wine and happily thought about nothing.
Back then, the only tough thing in her life was Xiang Liu.
Qing Shiu Town days seemed so long ago and so far beyond her reach, yet remaining vividly in her memories, leaving Xiao Yao’s eyes wet with tears.