This chapter has an incredible scene involving Xiao Yao, Xiang Liu, and Jing. We need more scenes like this. I felt like Once Promised was always about the big picture in both novel construct and story perspective. The battles between the three Godly kingdoms, the grand and epic love between Xiao Yao’s parents, all the various princes and princesses struggling between duty and individual desires, the world was seen from the top down in its expansive glory. But Lost You Forever started from the bottom up even in the very first chapter, tossing the reader into the mundane daily life of a little healer in a random town. There was no glorious ambition or blood feuds, there was only one person trying to live a peaceful existence in a very unpredictable world. I should have expected LSF to end the battle for the Xuan Yuan crown this early as it abruptly and logically happened in the last episode, with the Yellow Emperor abdicating for his talented and capable grandson which he always intended to do.
When Xiao Yao’s mother agreed to lead the Xuan Yuan army into battle towards the end of OP, she raged to her father that she was doing this for the people of Xuan Yuan and also for her dead brothers so that her nephew Zhuan Xu would one day rule wisely over the kingdom. The Yellow Emperor solemnly swore to her that he would pass the throne to Zhuan Xu, except Zhuan Xu didn’t know that so he continued to plot and plan to win it. But the Yellow Emperor wanted Zhuan Xu to do all that as a test of his ability, wisdom, and foresight and Zhuan Xu passed with flying colors. LYF was never about winning battles, it’s about what happens afterwards and how an Emperor can rule with compassion and make the hard decisions so the ball is in Zhuan Xu’s court. What will Xiao Yao do now that the one thing she’s been using to keep her mind off Jing is taken care of? Will she also find her own path in life outside of which guy she loves and which guy loves her? I sure hope so, one of the things I miss the most about her character is the could-care-less Wen Xiao Liu who munched on duck necks and lived a lazy carefree existence.
Chapter 29 – Misty Fog and Water, Longing Impossible to Forget:
The battle for the Xuan Yuan throne succession ended abruptly with the Yellow Emperor abdicating and Zhuan Xu ascending the throne. Even if Cang Lin and Yu Yang were angry, the situation was settled and there were no big waves to come and Zhuan Xu didn’t care about any lingering small ripples.
The Grand Emperor saw that the situation was settled and finally released Ah Nian from locking her up in her room. Ah Nian immediately stormed to Sheng Nong Mountain and the Grand Emperor chuckled that a grown daughter really couldn’t be kept at home.
Ah Nian wasn’t just angry at her dad, she was also angry at Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao. She felt they all underestimated her. When the danger came right to their front door, Xiao Yao stayed beside Zhuan Xu while she was locked up safely away? Was she someone who was afraid of death and danger?
But when she arrived at Sheng Nong Mountain ready to throw a fit with Zhuan Xu, the moment she saw him and realized that she almost could never have seen him again, all her anger went away and she hugged him while bawling until she couldn’t breathe. After Zhuan Xu calmed her down, she was no longer angry at him and instead felt happy and content, wanting only to be with him every minute from then on. But Zhuan Xu was now the Emperor and even if he coddled her there was only so much time he could spend with her so Ah Nian didn’t want to waste that precious time on being angry with him. Therefore she turned all her anger on Xiao Yao, refusing to talk with her and ignoring her. Xiao Yao merely smiled happily and let Ah Nian act out with her.
The Yellow Emperor settled in Zhi Jin Summit and chose the most remote court. He rarely left his residence and never inquired into national affairs. Every day was spent on his health and well being, reading medical books and faithfully following Xiao Yao’s recommendations on taking care of himself. Shu Hui and Jin Xuan and them were all scared of the Yellow Emperor so did their best to avoid him. Ah Nian was the only one not scared of the Yellow Emperor and went to see him everyday sweetly calling “Grandfather, Grandfather” and acting like his real granddaughter even more than Xiao Yao.
Perhaps due to Xiao Yao and Ah Nian spending every afternoon with the Yellow Emperor, with one in a daze and the other chatting or playing chess with the Yellow Emperor, Zhuan Xu would always come by around that time. There were no formalities and awkwardness in the room as laughter would ring out.
The Yellow Emperor was very casual as if he didn’t care whether Xiao Yao or Zhuan Xu came to visit, but one time after Ah Nian walked Zhuan Xu out, the Yellow Emperor stared at Xiao Yao and said “Many years ago when your grandmother was still alive, one evening I snuck through the secret passageway to Cao Yun Court and saw you swinging under the phoenix tree…..”
Xiao Yao turned to look at him oddly and the sadness in his eyes almost made her cringe as he continued “I hid outside the window and watched you guys surrounding Ah Lei and taking good care of her. I thought at that moment that even if I would own the entire world one day, I was destined to die alone. Who could have imagined that the day would come that I would have grandchildren by my side.”
If the Yellow Emperor continued to hold onto power, then he would likely really have died alone surrounded by power. Xiao Yao said “Even though you gave up power to make your dreams come true, but you also made Zhuan Xu’s dream come true.”
“When I was young and brash, it was all about never budging for what was important. Only afterwards did I realize I was wrong but it was too late.” The Yellow Emperor looked at Xiao Yao and said very solemnly “Xiao Yao, you need to remember that sometimes taking a step back does not equal losing.”
Xiao Yao sprawled on the window sill and said nothing.
Zhuan Xu was taking another consort again, this time the only daughter of the Wan Lei family.
The Wan Lei family was one of the prominent families of the North and the Yellow Emperor himself married a Wan Lei daughter as his second consort with a position just below Empress Lei Zhu. The Wan Lei Consort gave birth to two princes – Sixth Prince Xiu and Eighth Prince Qing. But now one Prince was dead and the other imprisoned forever and the Wan Lei family’s star had fallen. The Yellow Emperor ignored the Wan Lei family and Cang Lin hated them for supporting Sixth Prince Xiu in the battle for the throne with Cang Lin. All these years Cang Lin and Yu Yang constantly found ways to denigrate them and make their life miserable.
Everyone thought that Zhuan Xu’s next wife coming from one of the Northern prominent families would at least be a powerful family so it was a shock to see him pick the thoroughly beaten up and down on its luck Wan Lei family.
The Wan Lei family finally got a chance to rebuild its prominence and was very grateful to Zhuan Xu. Not to mention the family hated Cang Lin and Yu Yang hence the family threw its full and unreserved support behind Zhuan Xu.
The Wan Lei family followed the Yellow Emperor from the inception of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom and thus quickly regained it’s prominence as one of the most powerful clans of the North.
Xiao Yao and Ah Nian heard about Zhuan Xu taking a consort from the Wan Lei family while they were in the Yellow Emperor’s residence. Xiao Yao was leaning on a fan listlessly while Ah Nian was learning Go from the Yellow Emperor. Ah Nian’s chatter rang out from time to time while the Summer sun shone through the melon awning on the tiles below creating a light and dark contrast making this leisurely afternoon seem even more quiet and long.
Zhuan Xu walked in and stood behind Ah Nian for a bit to watch before walking over to Xiao Yao and taking the fan to fan her. Xiao Yao asked in a low voice “How come you have time today?”
Zhuan Xu squinted his eyes as he stared at the sun shining through the awning outside and said nothing.
Ah Nian quickly finished the match and asked “Gege, you’re not busy today?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “I came to tell Grandfather a matter.” Even though the Yellow Emperor was no longer involved in national affairs, Zhuan Xu would still use a casual chat to tell him important matters that was happening.
The Yellow Emperor said “You don’t need to tell me those things now.”
Zhuan Xu said “I need to tell Grandfather this particular matter. I am planning to take the Wan Lei family daughter as my consort.”
The Yellow Emperor smiled and congratulated him “Good choice.”
Xiao Yao looked at Ah Nian but because this was now the second time and also because Zhuan Xu was now the Xuan Yuan Emperor, Ah Nian didn’t have any big reaction other than a brief passing of sadness.
Zhuan Xu said “Your grandson I need to thank Grandfather for leaving the Wan Lei family for my use now.”
The Yellow Emperor said casually “It’s good you understood what I intended, but now you are the Xuan Yuan Emperor so who you want to use or not use is up to you and there is no need to consider me.”
Zhuan Xu took his leave and as he was handing the fan back to Xiao Yao he whispered “Don’t…..do you understand?”
Don’t congratulate me – Xiao Yao still vividly remembered what Zhuan Xu asked her when he was marrying Shu Hui. She nodded “I understand.”
Zhuan Xu walked out with Ah Nian staring at his departing form with longing in her eyes.
The Yellow Emperor gestured to Ah Nian indicating that she could run after Zhuan Xu so she took off with her face all red. The Yellow Emperor smiled and watched Ah Nian slip on her wooden sandals and quickly darted after Zhuan Xu. The sound of the wood clicking on the tiles reverberated down the corridor leaving the impression of a maiden chasing after her lover and imbued the entire court with a sense of youth.
Xiao Yao wanted to smile but also wanted to sigh. She said to the Yellow Emperor “You want Ah Nian to marry Zhuan Xu?”
The Yellow Emperor said “Ah Nian is a very good girl, innocent and impetuous, candid and open-hearted, she doesn’t have all those schemes that the other girls have.”
Xiao Yao stared out the window and felt that she was so old and jaded compared to Ah Nian.
The Yellow Emperor said “You leave, too! Don’t spend the entire day in the court with an old fogey like me. With Zhuan Xu and me here, you should learn from Ah Nian and be more impetuous and do what you want.”
Xiao Yao casually said “It’s because you and Zhuan Xu are here that I don’t dare be impetuous and do what I want. My bloodline has destined me to be tied down so why even bother? If I said right now that I’m going to find Xiang Liu to play with, will you agree?”
The Yellow Emperor grew silent and seemed very concerned “I won’t agree. Zhuan Xu and he are destined to battle to the death one day. I don’t want you to be devastated when that day comes. Anything else you want, I will do my best to give it to you.”
“Zhuan Xu is a man and now the Emperor so that is why you are so strict and demanding with him. I’m not the same, you want to pamper and coddle me because you want to alleviate your guilt towards Grandmother, my Mom, my Uncles, all of that you want to now give me. But there is no amount of power in this world that can guarantee my happiness. Plus what you owe them is owed to them and you can never make it up with me, and I don’t want it! You just be my grandfather, and like all the grandfathers in the world, you worry about my future marriage and happiness but can do nothing about it other than worry until in the end you sigh and say “grandchildren have their own fated happiness!”
Xiao Yao fanned herself and smiled at the Yellow Emperor “You never experienced wanting to do something but not being able to, right? Try that on me then!”
The Yellow Emperor looked very torn.
That night after Zhuan Xu was done with work and leaving the court, the Yellow Emperor’s servant came up and he followed him back to the Yellow Emperor’s residence.
He saw the maids preparing dinner and said “I’ll dine here with Grandfather.”
Zhuan Xu ate dinner with the Yellow Emperor and afterwards the maids brought out sour date tea. Zhuan Xu took a sip “It’s strangely tasty” and the Yellow Emperor explained “Xiao Yao won’t let me drink tea with dinner but after dinner she concocted a special tea for me.”
Zhuan Xu smiled “It’s amazing she’s willing to put the effort into learning healing medicine for Grandfather.”
The Yellow Emperor said “I called you here because there is one task I need you to do your best to make happen.”
“Grandfather please tell me.”
“Find a way to get Xiang Liu to agree to come to our side. I know it’s very difficult, in the past hundreds of years I’ve asked Qing, Hou Tu, Cang Lin, and even Little Zhu Rong, all of them tried and were turned down by Xiang Liu. But I wish for you to try nonetheless.”
“Yes.” Zhuan Xu paused and then asked “Why does Grandfather care so much about Xiang Liu?”
The Yellow Emperor said “Just an old man’s little bit of regret.”
Zhuan Xu saw that the Yellow Emperor wasn’t going to explain more so he didn’t ask more and only said “I will do my best but I think it’s hopeless.”
The Yellow Emperor sighed “People do their best, the Heavens determines the outcome!”
The Wan Lei Consort was the first wife taken by Zhuan Xu after he ascended the throne so the wedding was much more grand than when Zhuan Xu married Shu Hui. Zhi Jin Palace was transformed inside and out with color and celebration.
Ah Nian tried to console herself but to no avail and decided to not even bother releasing some steam on Xiao Yao and instead said “Jiejie, let’s go down the mountain to play for a bit!”
Xiao Yao asked “Where to?”
Ah Nian thought “How about to find Xing Yue?”
Xiao Yao informed the Yellow Emperor and Zhuan Xu that she was taking Ah Nian to Little Zhu Rong’s residence to find Xing Yue.
The friendship between women could be so strange, two women who ought to be rivals but because the man was marrying a third woman, those first two women instead felt like the same victims and were strangely friendly with each other. Ah Nian and Xing Yue grew up in similar surroundings and they had so much to discuss – the best cloth, the most cutting edge designs and color combinations, the latest fashionable hair styles…..Xiao Yao couldn’t get a word in and only watched them smile and chat.
Xiao Yao grew more and more quiet but Ah Nian and Xing Yue didn’t notice anything was off. They always saw Xiao Yao as someone casual and strange and a bit aloof. They didn’t know that Xiao Yao was in truth scared of being lonely and loved to talk.
Because the Emperor was taking a new consort, Zhi Yi Castle was extra bustling and the shops were decked out with their best wares. Xing Yue and Ah Nian channeled their disappointment into a frenzied shopping spree – make up, buy! silk, buy! jewelry, buy!…..
The two went from store to store while Xiao Yao took her time coming out holding multiple bags in each hand. It wasn’t clear if the bags weren’t secured properly or was simply too heavy but it suddenly spilled everywhere.
It rained last night so the ground had puddles and as Xiao Yao leaned down to pick up the fallen items, a carriage drove past without stopping and the wheel splashed water on Xiao Yao’s face.
Xiao Yao wiped her face with her sleeve and continued picking the items up and checking to see if it was dirtied. Someone knelt down to help her.
“Thank you….” Xiao Yao raised her head and saw the person helping her was Jing. Xiao Yao immediately couldn’t speak and felt her tiny bit of downtrodden was magnified.
Jing packed the fallen boxes together and tied it with the rope “Toss the spilled box and I’ll have the clerk get you another.”
Xiao Yao felt her eyes redden and tears threatened to fall so she suddenly stood up and ran down the street without a thought as to where she was going other than she needed to get away.
She kept telling herself that losing a man wasn’t anything, she could still live well. She used her willpower and controlled it all but in this very moment all the emotion she kept bottled up inside suddenly spiraled out of control.
Xiao Yao turned left and right through the streets and entered the underground gambling den run by the Li Jie tribe.
The gambling den didn’t allow in just any customer and in the past Xiang Liu was the one who brought Xiao Yao so this time coming alone the two guards were prepared to toss her out. They were about to talk when suddenly a small white fox appeared on top of Xiao Yao’s head and angrily scratched at the air with its claw.
The two men politely offered her a dog faced mask and opened the door to show her into the long corridor. Xiao Yao put on the mask and entered the den. She sat down at a table and released all her emotions as she gambled and realized that the rule to have everyone wear masks allowed people to release feelings they normally would never show.
Xiao Yao kept winning and her bets kept getting bigger without any desire to stop. She was hoping to cause a scene, just like the Yellow Emperor said, she could be impetuous and do what she wanted for once. But oddly the house did nothing, Xiao Yao kept winning and no one came to stop her. The other gamblers started crowding around her and watched her bet and followed suit until everyone was winning along with her.
Xiao Yao was getting bored, did Zhuan Xu have some sort of agreement with the Li Jie tribe leader that during his wedding the doggies couldn’t cause a scene in the castle?
Xiao Yao didn’t know that in another room, the Li Jie tribe leader Li Jie Chang was sitting before a water mirror watching her every move with interest. He said to Jing “Who is that girl? Last time when you hid out at my place getting drunk for days, it couldn’t have been because of her?”
Jing said nothing and just watched Xiao Yao, the water mirror reflected the flower, it could only be viewed and not touched.
Li Jie Chang grumbled “That girl is sure crazy when she gambles, I run a little business so you’re going to have to give me back all that money!”
On the other side of the gambling hall, Fang Feng Bei watched as everyone rushed over to one table. He casually got up and sauntered over only to smile and shake his head when he saw the little mountain of coins in front of Xiao Yao.
Everyone was in different outfits but all wearing the same dog face mask and it was impossible to see who was who, but Fang Feng Bei was just different and Xiao Yao immediately knew that was him.
Xiao Yao glared at Fang Feng Bei and placed all her winnings on one bet….and then promptly lost.
The crowd gasped and then slowly dispersed.
Xiao Yao walked out of the gambling den with Fang Feng Bei chuckling at her “You seem in a pissy mood. But in this day and age, I can’t imagine anyone in the vast wilderness who dares make you upset.”
The two arrived at the end of the corridor and Xiao Yao sniped back “As far as the edge of the sky, as close as right before my eyes.”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “The future Chi Sui clan leader wife, where is that proud future husband of yours? How come you came to such a place alone?”
Xiao Yao silently took off her dog face mask as did Fang Feng Bei.
Xiao Yao asked “You already know I’m engaged?”
“Something so newsworthy, it’s hard not to know even if one doesn’t want to know! I forgot to say congratulations!”
Xiao Yao silently stared at Fang Feng Bei for a few moments before shaking her head with a smile “I need to discuss two things with you.”
Fang Feng Bei played with his mask “Tell me.”
“The first is making poisons for you. I can still do it now but after….I’m married I won’t be able to anymore.”
Fang Feng Bei held the mask still and smiled at Xiao Yao “And the second?”
“I want to remove the voodoo bug linking us. The Tu Shan Madam had a doctor from the Jiu Li tribe who said that…….our bug might be the legendary Lover’s Bug. This bug is used by lovers…..and you and I…..it’s not suitable!” Xiao Yao mockingly said “Last time you said you were annoyed by the bug so I want to know when you have free time to go to Jiu Li with me so that we can find the Voodoo King to remove the bug.”
Fang Feng Bei stared at Xiao Yao and under the dim light of the gambling hall his sliver of a smile felt cold.
Xiao Yao added “Even if the bug is removed, I’ll still be good for my promise.”
Xiang Liu coolly said “Fine, wait until I have time.”
The two silently left the gambling den and Xiao Yao handed her mask to the guards before exiting with Fang Feng Bei.
It was already dark outside with the half moon hanging in the sky. Xiao Yao forced a smile and said to Fang Feng Bei “I’ll keep sending poisons every three months. I’m off now.”
Fang Feng Bei grabbed Xiao Yao’s arm. She didn’t look back but also didn’t pull of his grasp. Her body was tense as she quietly waited. After a good long while, Fang Feng Bei said “Have dinner with me.”
Xiao Yao’s entire body sagged and she shook her head with a forced smile “I don’t have time!”
Fang Feng Bei said “You best not turn down what a certain person has decided to do.”
“You’re Fang Feng Bei right now!”
“All that stuff you just said, who was it meant for?”
“I…..” Xiao Yao took a deep breath “Fine, General Xiang Liu!”
Fang Feng Bei took Xiao Yao to a small alley and before they even got close she could smell the mouthwatering aroma.
Pushing open the tattered wooden door, inside was a rundown house with an one-armed old man holding a giant ladle standing in front of a big pot. He glanced at Fang Feng Bei and smiled “What a rarity, hundreds of visits and it’s the first time you brought a friend. And a girl to boot.”
Fang Feng Bei smiled and walked through the house and out another door into a small courtyard. They sat down on the straw pallet while the one-armed old man brought them two bowls of seafood and meat soup along with a plate of large biscuits. He limped as he walked over to place it on the table.
Xiao Yao asked “What smells so good?”
“Donkey meat.” Fang Feng Bei pointed to the old man “He’s from the Li Jie tribe and the tribe’s specialty is stewing donkey meat. In the vast wilderness, there is no other who can cook donkey meat like he does.”
The old man brought a plate of vegetables for Xiao Yao “Made this just for you.”
Xiao Yao wasn’t very hungry so drank and nibbled on the food. The old man sat down on a wood chopping stool and drank while talking with Xiang Liu. Xiao Yao wasn’t able to understand all they were talking about, other than it was about people they both knew and who was dead now. The old man’s attitude was very placid as was Xiang Liu, but in this soft muggy Summer night Xiao Yao suddenly felt the sorrow of having friends pass away.
In the quiet out-of-the-way alley, Li Jie Chang was walking and nagging “Look at you! When the woman was there you didn’t even have the courage to show your face before her. Then you watched her leave with another man and can only look despondent.”
Jing said sadly “What can I do if I show up before her?”
Li Jie Chang pushed open the wooden door “Let me tell you, there is only three moves you need to deal with women. Rush up to her and toss her over your shoulder, take her home and deposit her on the pallet, take her clothes off and jump her! It’s a done deal just like that! You have to do as I tell you and I guarantee she’ll docilely follow you.”
Xiao Yao heard such ridiculous bravado advice and burst out laughing.
Li Jie Chang heard her laugh and scowled “Which gal dare mock me? I’ll cart you home tonight!”
Xiao Yao laughed “Try carting but don’t break your back!”
Li Jie Chang laughed out loud as he walked into the courtyard and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Xiao Yao and Fang Feng Bei. He first greeted Bei and it was clear from his tone of voice that they were quite familiar with each other.
Chang then turned back to chuckle at Jing “It’s sure a small world!”
Jing stood there stiffly not moving while Li Jie Chang boldly sat down at another table and said to the old man “Bring the meat.”
The old man put down his wine bowl and smiled as he stood up and said to Jing “Sit!”
Jing walked over and sat down.
The old man brought them soup and biscuits before sitting back down on the wooden stool with his wine bowl continuing to chat with Fang Feng Bei.
Li Jie Chang grinned at Xiao Yao “Hey! I say….Little Lady, what’s your name?”
Xiao Yao ignored him and put on a totally engrossed face as she listened to Fang Feng Bei talking with the old man.
Li Jie Chang said “Little Lady, Fang Feng Bei is like that old man, neither are good stuff. Following Bei isn’t a good bet, why don’t you seriously consider my pal here. My pal here was accidentally set up by a woman and a son resulted, but it’s not a mistake that can’t be forgiven….”
“Chang!” Jing glared at Li Jie Chang with his eyes blazing a warning.
“Your warning is useless, when I damn well want to talk I’m going to talk even if you put a sword to my throat.”
Li Jie Chang leaned over towards Xiao Yao “There is no perfect thing in this world and everyone makes mistakes. Jing made a mistake but it’s not an unforgivable mistake. Think about it, because he made the mistake now he’ll never make the same mistake again. After marriage you won’t even need to worry about him! You try finding a man who has never made a mistake, and even if you do you can’t guarantee he won’t make a mistake after marriage. Then you’ll be even more upset!”
Xiao Yao asked “Are you done?”
Li Jie Chang said “No!”
Xiao Yao turned her head and poured wine for Fang Feng Bei, clearly not intending to hear more.
Li Jie Chang said “You don’t like the wife and son in Qing Qiu, then just have another residence here in Zhi Yi and have Jing live here with you. Let me tell you straight up, Fang Feng Bei’s life is here today with no guarantee of tomorrow. Even Jing who made a mistake is a better choice than Fang Feng Bei……..”
Xiao Yao slammed her wine bowl on the table and gave Li Jie Chang a piercing look “I’m already engaged and my fiancee isn’t him. So please, please, I beg you stop stepping all over Bei!”
“What?” Li Jie Chang was incredulous and howled “Who is it? Who dares take my brother’s woman? I’m going to knock down with him! If he doesn’t cancel the engagement, then I’m going to break both his legs…….”
Xiao Yao laughed out loud and said coldly “Chi Sui Feng Long, you go talk with him then!”
“Feng Long…..” Li Jie Chang stuttered “You…..you are Feng Long’s fiancee? You are the Gao Xing Princess, Zhuan Xu little sister cousin?”
Xiao Yao glared at Chang and said to Fang Feng Bei “You are sure even-tempered with this guy.”
Fang Feng Bei drank his wine and said casually “Every word he said is the truth. I’m not a guy suitable for a woman to follow. Isn’t that something you already know?”
Xiao Yao stared at Fang Feng Bei and couldn’t utter a response.
The one-armed man stared at Xiao Yao and suddenly asked “You are the daughter of the Xuan Yuan Princess?”
Xiao Yao turned to the old man “Yes.”
“Your dad is…..”
Li Jie Chang just called out that she was the Gao Xing Princess, didn’t the one-armed old man hear that? Xiao Yao quizzically answered “The Gao Xing Grand Emperor.”
The one-armed old man stared intently at Xiao Yao before downing all the wine in his bowl and then launching into a song. His song was sad and plaintive, singing about the fallen Sheng Nong kingdom and the sorrow of the soldiers fighting.
Xiao Yao listened intently and suddenly remembered the blood red sunset when Xiang Liu was dressed all in white and walked towards her from a burning funeral pyre of dead Sheng Nong soldiers.
Li Jie Chang yelled “Uncle, stop your drunken craziness!”
The old man kept singing so Li Jie Chang shoved him into the house and nervously said to Xiao Yao “The old man has low tolerance but loves drinking. When he gets crazy he loves to sing songs he heard from places…..he only has one arm now and his legs can barely walk, he’s already useless…..”
Xiao Yao said “I only came to eat. Once I walk out this door I’ll forget everything.”
Li Jie Chang was relieved and listened to the singing from inside the house and sadly added “My Uncle isn’t a bad guy, in fact he’s too good of a guy which is why he….can’t forget.”
Xiao Yao suddenly realized that when Li Jie Chang was talking about Fang Feng Bei earlier, all the things he was saying were about Xiang Liu. Did he know Fang Feng Bei was Xiang Liu?
That meant Jing also knew now that Bei was Xiang Liu.
Xiao Yao looked over at Jing and then back at Bei before saying to Bei “Are you done eating? If you’re done then let’s go!”
Xiao Yao and Bei walked out while Chang chased out after them “Little Lady!”
Xiao Yao stopped and looked back wearily “What else do you want to say?”
“Knowing your identity, what else can I say? I just wanted to tell you that Jing’s son was due to him falling into the trap set by Fang Feng Yi Yang and his own grandmother. All these years since Jing lives alone and he never allows Yi Yang near him. I use my life as Li Jie Chang to swear that Jing deeply loves you, he only has eyes for you.”
Xiao Yao turned and walked away. The night was quiet and the road was long – which way was her path?
Xiao Yao softly asked “Bei, tell me…..why is it so hard to find a person to walk the path with?”
Fang Feng Bei said “Finding a person isn’t hard, finding a person who shares the same interest, genuinely treats you well, and makes the journey more interesting, that is what is hard.”
Xiao Yao asked “Can one never forget a person for an entire life?”
“Depends on the person. If you are talking about Jing, then I think it’s highly possible.”
“Do you mean he can’t forget me, or I can’t forget him?”
Fang Feng Bei smiled “However you want to interpret.”
Xiao Yao furrowed her brows and angrily said “There are a lot of good men left in the vast wilderness!”
“There are plenty of good men, but there isn’t many who will really put you inside his heart.”
“What do you mean? So I shouldn’t marry Feng Long?”
“I don’t mean anything. You asked me so I honestly told you my thoughts.”
“Xiang Liu, I really don’t know, what is your heart thinking deep down inside?”
“You and me are travelers who have crossed paths in this windy world. Whenever we meet we are each other’s companions to enjoy the world is all! Why do you care what I think deep down inside?”
Xiao Yao mocked herself “Yes, it’s my over thinking! No matter what you feel deep down inside, none of has anything to do with me!”
Xiang Liu stared down the dark alley and said nothing.
Xiao Yao was silent for a few moments and then casually said “Jing knows you’re Xiang Liu now. He won’t tell my Gege but if Feng Long knows, Gege will find out. You……be careful.”
Xiang Liu stared at Xiao Yao and she avoided his piercing gaze and asked “Who was that old man selling donkey meat?”
“He used to be a subordinate of Qi Yo and one of the survivors in the final battle in Yi Province. Carrying all the memories of those who perished, it’s easier just to have died.” Xiang Liu smiled “Actually, to a General, the best ending is to die on the battlefield.”
It was a warm Summer night but Xiao Yao suddenly felt her entire body turn cold in an instant.
They arrived outside Little Zhu Rong’s residence and Xiao Yao and Xiang Liu both stopped at the same time. But one didn’t depart and the other didn’t go in. They just silently stood there.
In the past she felt they had so many opportunities to see each other, but it wasn’t clear when it began that Xiao Yao started to feel that she was seeing less and less of him. Until tonight, when this feeling became impossible to ignore.
After a few moments, Xiang Liu said “You go inside!”
Xiao Yao wanted to talk to him but she didn’t know what she wanted to say. She said “Now is not like before, you shouldn’t come to the Middle Plains so often anymore.”
Xiao Yao thought Xiang Liu would mock her, asking whether she was worried Zhuan Xu would kill him, or worried he would kill Zhuan Xu. But surprisingly Xiang Liu said nothing and continued to just look at her.
Xiao Yao quietly stood there waiting, but she didn’t know what she was waiting for.
Xiang Liu cold voice spoke “You go inside!”
Xiao Yao smiled and curtsied to him before turning to knock on the door. The door opened and Xiao Yao stepped inside while Xiang Liu continued to stand outside, white robe black hair, tall and proud, like the white snow on the black mountains in the North, even if it was covered with flowers it would still look imposing.
Xiao Yao couldn’t take another step and stood rooted in place staring at him as the door slowly closed and Xiang Liu disappeared from sight.
Xiao Yao returned to her residence to find Xing Yue and Ah Nian were both there trying on the items they bought earlier during the day. Seeing her back, both groused “Good older sister, next time let us know before you suddenly disappear? Thank god the store clerk said you left with a friend so we weren’t left worried.”
Xiao Yao smiled and said nothing. The two continued to discuss their new outfits and giggled merrily. Xiao Yao laid on her pallet and felt her mind in a daze – these people were her friend and family, so why did she feel so lonely right now?
The day Zhuan Xu married the Wan Lei Consort, all the Middle Plains and Xuan Yuan prominent families gathered on Sheng Nong Mountain and all of Zhi Jin Court was abuzz with merriment.
Now Zhuan Xu was the Emperor so the officials handled everything within the palace leaving Xiao Yao watching from the sidelines. She initially worried about Ah Nian but found Ah Nian handling it well. She didn’t like it so she dragged Xiao Yao off early back to her residence. Xiao Yao kept Ah Nian company as she got drunk and the next day the two of them woke up around noon to find all the guests had departed and it was over. The only difference was another woman was now living on Zhi Jin Palace. But the Palace was big so a year could go by and they wouldn’t even run into her once.
Life returned to normal, Ah Nian remained happy as she kept the Yellow Emperor company because that meant she could see her Zhuan Xu gege every day as well.
Xiao Yao stopped practicing archery, likely after Zhuan Xu became Emperor the threat was gone so she stopped pushing herself so hard. She became very lazy and seemed uninterested in anything. All she liked to do every day was sleep, often past noon was when she woke. She had lunch and then went to visit the Yellow Emperor but would sit in his residence in a listless daze.
Ah Nian always found Xiao Yao weird so nothing Xiao Yao did made her think anything was wrong.
The Yellow Emperor asked a few times “Xiao Yao, what are you thinking about?”
Xiao Yao replied “Nothing, which is why this is called being in a daze.”
The Yellow Emperor stopped asking and let her be.
Zhuan Xu worriedly probed “Xiao Yao, what’s with you lately?”
Xiao Yao lazily drawled “Working so hard for so many years, now you’re the Emperor can’t you let me relax? Or is it that if I’m lazy and do nothing then you won’t take care of me.”
Zhuan Xu warmly said “No matter what you’re like, I am willing to take care of you for your entire life.”
Ah Nian heard that and immediately asked “What about me? Me too?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “You, too. Since….”
Ah Nian quickly asked “Since what?”
“Since if you eat to much I can just ask Master for more money.”
“Ah…..you’re such a cheapskate!” Ah Nian hurtled over to hit Zhuan Xu and also tell on him “Grandfather, did you hear what Gege just said?”
The Yellow Emperor smiled “Your dad is going to have to prepare a dowry for you anyways, even if Zhuan Xu doesn’t want it your dad will give it.”
Ah Nian’s face turned beet red and she darted behind the Yellow Emperor’s back and lightly rapped his back in embarrassment.
That night when Xiao Yao was getting ready for bed, Zhuan Xu suddenly came.
Xiao Yao asked in surprised “A rare guest! Is anything going on?”
Zhuan Xu sat down on the pallet “Can’t I come see you if nothing is going on?”
“Of course not, but didn’t we already see each other this afternoon at Grandfather’s residence?”
“I just heard Ah Nian jabbering on and didn’t hear you say anything.”
Xiao Yao smiled “All is well so there is nothing to say.”
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao “Xiao Yao, are you living well? Are you happy?”
Xiao Yao was taken aback “Why….why are you suddenly asking me this?”
Zhuan Xu said “Miao Pu says you often sit alone late into the night. I thought as time passed you will get better but lately you seem more and more distant and uninterested. I’m really worried about you.”
Xiao Yao smiled “I’m fine. With you ascending the throne I don’t have any pressure anymore so I’m not as hard on myself to do things.”
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao until gradually she stopped smiling “Don’t look at me like that!” Xiao Yao laid down on the pillow and buried her face in her arms and used her sleeve to cover her head.
Zhuan Xu said “Now that I am on the throne, I can give you the things I couldn’t give you before. I want you to live better than you used to, but now you…….did I do something wrong?”
Xiao Yao said “No, you did nothing wrong. I messed up myself.”
“Xiao Yao, tell me.”
Zhuan Xu sat next to Xiao Yao and said in a low voice “Xiao Yao, what is there in this world that you can’t tell me?”
Xiao Yao finally spoke “Since breaking up with Jing my heart aches so I can’t sleep well. But I don’t think it’s a big deal and keep on living as usual. Since you ascended the throne, for whatever reason I suddenly feel exhausted and uninterested in anything. I don’t have the pressure to get up the next day so I don’t even sleep well that night. I keep remembering the days I spent with Jing in Qing Shui Town and then remembering life with you when we were small and living on Cao Yun Court. I like those times but I don’t like living in memories of the past. No matter how wonderful the past was, it’s gone now. I don’t know why I’m so weak and useless and I don’t like myself now……..”
Zhuan Xu quietly listened.
A person can be hurt two ways, one is physical and can be seen and the other is emotional and cannot be seen. No matter how strong, a person who is physically injured will rest and heal. But emotional injury, the stronger a person is, the more the person will pretend it never happened and live on as usual. But this type of injury is even harder to heal.
Abandoned by her mother, running for her life, turning into a faceless monster, living alone in the deep mountains, captured by the Nine-tailed fox, wandering by herself…….all those things injured Xiao Yao deeply but she stayed strong and pushed the injuries deep down inside and pretended it didn’t happen. She told herself that she was grown now and those things were in the past.
Xiao Yao appeared carefree and want for nothing, but due to her experiences as a child she actually longed for a stable home more than anyone, otherwise she wouldn’t have formed her own mismatched family when she was Wen Xiao Liu.
Xiao Yao placed all her hope for a family on Jing, which is why his leaving her was like the straw that broke the camel’s back and Xiao Yao couldn’t handle it anymore. But even if she couldn’t handle it anymore, it happened during the most dangerous time for the battle for the Xuan Yuan throne so Xiao Yao had to keep being strong for Zhuan Xu. Now that Zhuan Xu was safe, she finally collapsed inside.
Zhuan Xu’s heart hurt and for the first time he started to detest Jing. Xiao Yao gave her trust and hope, which took so much courage and effort on her part that normal people couldn’t imagine. She was building a home on a bruised and battered body, yet Jing shattered Xiao Yao’s trust and hope.
Zhuan Xu stroked Xiao Yao’s head “Don’t worry, you’re not alone anymore. I’m here. You can be weak if you want. You can even cry! Don’t worry!”
Xiao Yao felt tears come, since she was small every step she took she couldn’t be weak because that would mean death. She never allowed herself to soften and be weak and she didn’t know how she actually survived such a difficult childhood to arrive at this point only to break down now? But every night all her dreams brought forth so much pain it was like a flood threatening to drown her.
Xiao Yao said “Don’t worry, I trust time will heal everything.”
Zhuan Xu said “I learned many years ago that the wounds on the heart are very hard to heal. That is why I still can’t forgive my mom even now.”
“The physical injuries have medicine to heal, there must also be a way to heal emotional injuries.”
“I didn’t say there wasn’t any.”
“How to heal?”
“What you have today will make up for what you lost before. The happiness now will cover the pain of the past. I can’t forgive my mom but because you are by my side, all the pain of losing her has already been smoothed out and covered over.”
Xiao Yao silently thought about it and forced a smile “Are you encouraging me to find a new lover?”
Zhuan Xu said “I just hope there is a person out there who can pave over the pain Jing left on you. That you can believe you are treasured, you are loved, you are valued, you are someone he can never ever let go of.”
Xiao Yao’s tears swam in her eyes and she murmured “I’ve always been unlucky. This type of lucky thing I don’t even dare to hope for.”
Zhuan Xu said in a low voice “It’s there, Xiao Yao, it’s there.”
Zhuan Xu kept Xiao Yao company until she fell asleep. He got up and covered her with the blanket. Even though Xiao Yao refused to cry in front of him because she was so headstrong, but right now the tears were slowly falling from her eyes.
Zhuan Xu lightly wiped away her tears with his fingers. Years ago if he knew that one day Xiao Yao would be crying because of Jing, then even if he wanted and needed the Tu Shan clan’s assistance he would have never allowed Jing a chance to get close to Xiao Yao. Right now he hated Jing, but he hated himself even more.