Ugh, I love this slow and delicate chapter of Lost You Forever way too much. So little action but so much richness in important details. Xiao Yao moves back to Sheng Nong Mountain and finds her true calling after a walk down memory lane. She reads the former Flame Emperor’s medical journals and really understands what being a healer means and that motivates her to become a doctor in spirit as well as in skill. Xiao Yao will never know that her own mother actually met the Flame Emperor in the last days of his life and he passed on his life’s work to her. Not to mention the former Flame Emperor being platonic best friends with Xiao Yao’s grandmother Empress Lei Zhu as well as Xiao Yao’s master the Royal Mother. It’s so apropos that Xiao Yao carries the mantle now. Medicine becomes also her distraction from the surreal quality of her life, engaged to Feng Long but doesn’t love him, recovering from Jing’s broken promise which felt like pouring salt on her lacking in trust heart, and wondering what the heck is really between her and Xiang Liu.
Okay, she doesn’t ever wonder but she does something that I’m so happy to see from a girl who never ever wants to take the first step and make the first overture. She sends Xiang Liu the most obvious and undeniable message of what is in her heart towards him. She pleads wordlessly for him to take her hand, for him to take her away from it all, for them to forget that he’s the General of the Sheng Nong resistance army and she’s the cousin of Emperor Zhuan Xu. Even with everything she went through with Jing, he was always the one who made the effort, the one who bared his heart to her, the one who extracted a promise from her. For the first time we see Xiao Yao dare ever so little to hope. My heart bleeds for her as it does for all the male leads in this novel. Who will be the one to break free of their fate and find long lasting happiness? I don’t know but can’t my woobies stop hurting me so much with their inner angst? I don’t know how I can translate through the tears to come.
Chapter 31 – Chasing Past Memories, Empty Hopes and Disappointed Visage:
Life on Xiao Yue Summit was very languid and lazy.
Zhuan Xu said Sheng Nong Mountain was the same as Five Gods Mountain but that wasn’t true. Five Gods Mountain had no memories but Sheng Nong Mountain, Zhi Yi, Zhe Province, it all had lots of memories in each place.
Xiao Yao didn’t know if she purposely didn’t want to face the past or really was lazy, but she didn’t want to go anywhere. When Zhuan Xu suggested she open a medical clinic like she did on Five Gods Mountain, Xiao Yao wasn’t interested.
Every day Xiao Yao woke up after noon and then flipped through her medical books. Only when making poisons did she perk up slightly.
The Yellow Emperor saw her so withdrawn and suggested “That boy from the Fang Feng family, his name is Fang Feng Bei, right? I see you guys get along well, how come he hasn’t come play with you these past few years? You can ask him to hang out together.”
It was better the Yellow Emperor not mention that because afterwards Xiao Yao got even more uninterested even in making poisons. She spent every day sitting in a daze in the corridor.
One day the Yellow Emperor summoned Xiao Yao and took her into a wooden hut. It was sparsely decorated with only a jade box on the pallet that caught the eye. The Yellow Emperor said “This was the residence of the former Flame Emperor.”
She knew which former Flame Emperor he was referring to but couldn’t help but confirm “The Flame Emperor that is regarded as the founder of medicine?”
“Yes, the one who wrote the Sheng Nong Herb Manual, that Flame Emperor.”
Even though she never met him, Xiao Yao remained curious about him after memorizing the manual so she quietly looked around the hut.
The Yellow Emperor walked up to the pallet and pointed to the jade box “This contains all the notes written by the Flame Emperor when he was doing his medical research. You can read it.”
Xiao Yao wasn’t very interested and murmured “Sure.”
The Yellow Emperor added “Whether he was still alive or after he died, the entire world respects the Flame Emperor more than me. After uniting the Middle Plains and to sooth the people’s will I had no choice but to venerate him, but in truth I never felt he was worthy until I settled at Xiao Yue Summit and chanced upon his handwritten notes. After reading it carefully I finally conceded that I could never match up to him. At least the me of the past couldn’t! Xiao Yao, I have only ever respected myself, the Flame Emperor is the only other person I ever respected and admired in my life.”
Xiao Yao stared in shock at the Yellow Emperor, unable to believe that such an ambitious, brave, and proud Yellow Emperor could have just said that.
The Yellow Emperor said “The Sheng Nong Herb Manual is something you’ve long memorized but no matter how much you know it front to back you have never truly understood it. Don’t look at me like that, after you read it then you’ll understand what I mean.”
Xiao Yao opened the box and picked up the first scroll and started reading.
Once she started she was mesmerized and didn’t even know when the Yellow Emperor left.
From morning until evening, from evening until morning, Xiao Yao didn’t sleep or eat and just kept on reading.
The notes started with the Flame Emperor writing that he personally tested hundreds of plants and herbs to understand what its effects were. He discovered that he was being poisoned by the testing so he started to cure himself with antidotes.
The Flame Emperor carefully wrote down in detail every type of medicine he took.
He needed to catalog the effects of each medicine before and after, and then carefully write down how it affected him after he took it: weakness, pain, deafness, vomiting, spasms, heart murmurs, seizures, frothing at the mouth…..
The notes were detailed and calm without a shred of emotion. Xiao Yao read in it the cold stark words but knew behind it was real pain that a body had to endure. In the beginning Xiao Yao didn’t understand why the person who could write the Sheng Nong Herb Manual didn’t know how to lesson his own pain? But the more she read led her to understand that he knew how but didn’t want to help himself. He wanted to give the people of the world a manual that listed the first reaction to a plant or herb exactly as it was ingested.
Until the end, when the Flame Emperor knew there was no cure for his poisoned body, he still used his body to test all sorts of medicines not to cure himself but to catalog more and more to leave behind.
This could cure heart attacks but would leave nerve damage; that can lessen retching but will cause sleeplessness; that could help bodily pain but might lead to blindness…..
In these cold words, how deep was the love for the world, how magnanimous was the sacrifice, how brave and resilient was the determination.
An Emperor for the ages was willing to endure such pain and agony just to leave behind knowledge to help the humans lesson pain. But the lifespan of the gods was so long that to devote it to experiencing agony willingly required how vast a heart full of courage.
These notes were just a portion of what the Flame Emperor wrote but contained some plants not included in the Manual itself likely because he didn’t have time to test it repeatedly to confirm. The knowledge included in the Manual was so detailed and precise, how much repeated testing did it take to create one such Sheng Nong Herb Manual?
After Xiao Yao finished reading the handwritten notes she sat there in a daze for some time before finally leaving the hut.
The Yellow Emperor stared at her quietly and she said “I was wrong! I never truly read and understood the Sheng Nong Herb Manual!” In the past she heard people talking about how the Manual was the life’s work of the Flame Emperor but she never truly comprehended what that meant. Now she understood that what she had casually learned was not just a medical text but the blood and guts of an Emperor’s entire life.
The Yellow Emperor nodded “If you’re wrong, how will you fix it?”
Xiao Yao didn’t have an answer.
The Yellow Emperor said “The Flame Emperor didn’t have time to collect his final notes. He likely doesn’t care whether I am venerating him during official prayer ceremonies, if I could present the world with the final collection from his notes and help the people, it would be the best tribute to him. But I don’t know medicine.”
The Yellow Emperor took his hoe and headed for the fields.
Xiao Yao sat down crossed legged and slowly contemplated.
Zhuan Xu came in the evening and she said to him “I want to learn medicine.”
Zhuan Xu was perplexed “Don’t you already know medicine?”
Xiao Yao said “I learned my accident.” She learned by trying to poison people and lacked the fundamentals. She didn’t even know how to treat the most basic ailments so she could never be considered a real doctor.
When Xiao Yao was running the medical clinic in Yin Province she actually discovered this limitation but she didn’t care to fix it. She never intended to help the people of the world with her healing so if there were ailments she couldn’t treat then another doctor could deal with it. But now she faced her limitations and decided to conquer it. She wanted to forget everything she learned and start learning medicine from scratch.
Zhuan Xu asked “How do you want to learn medicine? Want me to order Dr. Zhen to teach you?”
Xiao Yao shook her head “Right now I’m not worthy of him teaching me.”
“Whatever you want to do, I will support you.”
There were medical schools in Zhi Yi Castle so Zhuan Xu ordered royal physicians to take turns teaching courses there. Xiao Yao covered her face with a veiled hat and pretended to be a regular medical student and started learning medicine from the bare basics.
Xiao Yao stopped sleeping in and got up early every day to take classes at the medical school. The Yellow Emperor also got up early every day and went to tend the fields and read up on medical texts. One old, one young, the days passed peacefully on Xiao Yue Summit.
Every day Zhuan Xu would come have dinner with them rain or shine. After years of testing Zhuan Xu finally understood that the Yellow Emperor had let everything go with no intention of ever going back to rule. Zhuan Xu also gained experience with ruling Xuan Yuan and didn’t need his advice as much so he stopped telling the Yellow Emperor every detail of what went on in court and only shared the critical issues with him.
Most of the time Zhuan Xu never talked about politics or Zhi Jin Palace. He discussed the land with the Yellow Emperor and asked Xiao Yao what she learned today, the new friends she made in class, or whether anything interesting happened.
Sometimes Zhuan Xu would linger after dinner to accompany Xiao Yao to swing or help her do little chores or even take a walk with her in the phoenix tree forest.
Xiao Yao felt nothing changed between her and Zhuan Xu, he was still her closest person. But everything was still not the same. He never let her go to Zhi Jin Palace so she felt that he placed her outside of his normal daily life. But Xiao Yao didn’t have a problem with that since he didn’t need her anymore now.
Winter left and Summer came, time passed swiftly and Xiao Yao had been learning medicine for two years in the medical school.
One afternoon Xiao Yao walked out of the school and found Feng Long waiting for her. She smiled “How come you have time today?” Feng Long smiled “I’ll take you back.”
In the last two years, when Feng Long was in Zhi Yi Castle he would find time to visit Xiao Yao in Xiao Yue Summit and also chat with the Yellow Emperor. After Zhuan Xu arrived the four of them would then have dinner together.
Xing Yue only visited once after Xiao Yao came to Xiao Yue Summit. Due to the Yellow Emperor, everyone avoided Xiao Yue Summit, especially Xing Yue. She was a hostage in Xuan Yuan Castle from birth so the Yellow Emperor represented the spectre of death to her. Her fear of him was ingrained since childhood so even if she was now the Empress of Xuan Yuan and the Yellow Emperor could not harm her anymore, she still felt very awkward whenever she saw him. So she intentionally avoided it and if she had her way she would have sent the Yellow Emperor back to Xuan Yuan Mountain already.
In her one and only visit, Xing Yue was very formal and stayed only briefly before departing.
Feng Long was vastly different than Xing Yue, he was taken at birth by the Chi Sui clan leader and grew up in his grandfather’s protective care without any worry. After he grew up he understood that the Yellow Emperor caused his family to be split into three places but by such time it was already over. He might’ve been angry before but he didn’t blame the Yellow Emperor anymore nor was he scared of him. He was actually rather in awe of him, the type of feeling a man with great ambition would have for another who succeeded. Like a beast’s natural admiration for another powerful beast.
The other government officials were wary so kept their distance from the Yellow Emperor to avoid the awkwardness of one nation with two rulers and lead to Zhuan Xu’s suspicion of their allegiance. Feng Long was as smart as any when it came to politics yet with this he was completely candid and forthright, he never avoided the Yellow Emperor and even used Xiao Yao to spend more time with him. He liked to talk with the Yellow Emperor, to learn from him the historical events that the Yellow Emperor lived through and had greater understanding of. Feng Long wanted to learn such wisdom and knowledge from an elder, such an opportunity people dreamed of and might never experience once, but because of Xiao Yao he had many opportunities.
Xiao Yao and Feng Long returned to Xiao Yue Summit and Feng Long immediately ran off to find the Yellow Emperor. He excitedly used his water power to draw a map to show the army formations and discussed the attack strategy with the Yellow Emperor who listened patiently. When Feng Long was done talking, the Yellow Emperor swapped a few formations and Feng Long was rendered dumbstruck. He furrowed his brows in deep thought and then excitedly bowed to the Yellow Emperor in appreciation.
Xiao Yao sighed and shook her head, she wondered if Feng Long was visiting her not because he missed his fiancee but because he missed the Yellow Emperor. She ignored that pair of young and old and went to the dummy to practice her acupuncture.
Zhuan Xu arrived to find Feng Long and the Yellow Emperor still discussing army strategy and he listened for a bit before walking over to watch Xiao Yao poking needles.
Likely she practiced archery for so many years, she integrated the technique into her acupuncture so the way she wielded needles was very different than other doctors.
Even though it was just a dummy, Xiao Yao treated it as a real person so she didn’t dare slack off and was covered in sweat after her practice session. Zhuan Xu handed her a handkerchief to wipe her face and tenderly said “There are many doctors in the palace, why are you spending time learning such detailed skills?”
Xiao Yao laughed “If I work hard during the day I can sleep better at night.”
“Is your sleeplessness better?”
“Since starting to learn medicine, it’s gotten a lot better.” She still had a hard time falling asleep but she woke up less during the night. Because she slept better, her heart pain problem also lessened.
Zhuan Xu’s expression was conflicted – Xiao Yao’s illness was caused by Jing and she never mentioned him now, but after so many years she still hadn’t forgotten him.
Feng Long saw Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao chatting in front of the dummy and called over “Your majesty, can you work a little harder please? Can’t you see me discussing army strategy with your grandfather over here? Of course with me around you’ll never end up on the battlefield, but you should come learn it!”
Zhuan Xu walked over and moved the formations and immediately destroyed Feng Long’s side. Feng Long stared slack-jawed in disbelief.
Zhuan Xu scoffed “Since I was small I was already learning such things with my grandfather. He acted out all the battles he fought and back then it was during the height of the Sheng Nong and Xuan Yuan war so I heard so many battles firsthand. Many times Grandfather took me to the battlefield and said that only by standing in the middle of the fallen corpses can I experience the heat of the blood and understand the sacrifices of the soldiers.”
Feng Long’s emotions flitted from envy to jealous to anger and finally to pity. When he was playing pretend war with his friends, Zhuan Xu was stepping over corpses to walk forward.
Real battle, real death, such things even an adult would have a hard time enduring, yet a very young Zhuan Xu was standing there in the battlefield.
Feng Long sighed “For sure an Emperor isn’t a position that just anyone can possibly occupy.”
Shan Hu announced dinner and the four sat down to eat. Feng Long awkwardly stood up and started toasting each person individually. He then stammered and looked at everyone until Zhuan Xu impatiently asked “What do you want to say?”
Feng Long chuckled “That….I was thinking…..my wedding to Xiao Yao ought to be scheduled. My grandfather wants to see great-grandchildren and I’m sure your grandfather does as well.”
Xiao Yao’s heart dropped with a thud, like a person walking on the edge of the cliff suddenly stepping on empty. Her hands started to shake and she quickly clenched into a fist and looked down.
Feng Long stared at the Yellow Emperor who smiled “I have no opinion, you youngsters decide your own matters.”
Feng Long relaxed and immediately looked at Zhuan Xu who smiled and slowly sipped his wine. Feng Long kept staring pitifully “Your majesty, you have a gaggle of women so you ought to pity a brother. I promised Xiao Yao I would only have her as my one woman in my entire life. I don’t have a problem with it and am willing to do so, but my family is anxious that I get married.”
Zhuan Xu finished his wine and smiled “This is Xiao Yao’s matters so everything according to her wishes.”
Feng Long sighed and turned to Xiao Yao and wheedled “What do you think?’
Xiao Yao bit her lip and said nothing, she didn’t sense anything when she and Feng Long were coming back but he clearly came prepared. Sometimes he wasn’t as clueless as he appeared.
Feng Long softly said “If you like living on Sheng Nong Mountain, let’s ask His majesty to give us a peak since there are so many palaces uninhabited. If you like Zhi Yi, the Chi Sui clan has a big residence in Zhi Yi and you can renovate it. If you find both places too hectic and want quiet then we can go to Chi Sui. Have you been there? There are lots of rivers and lakes, like Gao Xing, so you’ll like it a lot. The Chi Sui residence is very lovely centered around a lake and especially beautiful in the Summertime.”
Feng Long looked at Xiao Yao’s expression and continued “If you like medicine, you can keep learning and even if you want to become a practicing doctor I would fully support you.”
Xiao Yao felt that if her life was exactly as Feng Long offered then it was already such a good life. Chi Sui castle wasn’t very big and was beautiful and serene. Perhaps she can open a medical clinic in Chi Sui Castle, there might not be blissful happiness but there also won’t be gutwrenching sadness. The days would pass in mellow calmness. She wanted to say yes but the word was stuck in her mouth and she couldn’t bring herself to actually say it out loud so she nodded her head.
Feng Long asked “So you agree?”
Xiao Yao nodded again “Yup.”
Feng Long was so happy he couldn’t barely contain his smile. He scooted back to his seat and said “I’ll write a letter to my grandfather tonight and have him send an envoy to discuss wedding details with the His majesty the Grand Emperor.”
With this matter decided the four of them resumed eating. Xiao Yao was silent while Zhuan Xu smiled but said very little. The Yellow Emperor chatted a bit with Feng Long but it was all Feng Long talking and being so happy.
After dinner Feng Long didn’t stuck around like he used to and spend more time with the Yellow Emperor but instead immediately bid farewell and rushed off in excitement on his winged ride.
Xiao Yao walked back into the hut to write a letter to her dad and ask him to pick an auspicious wedding date for her.
After she wrote the letter and summoned the messenger bird, she tied the letter on its leg and was about to release it when Zhuan Xu reached out and captured the bird in his one hand and grabbed Xiao Yao’s hand in his other hand.
Xiao Yao looked quizzically at him as he asked “Are you absolutely sure?”
Xiao Yao said “We’ve been engaged for a long time and I have to get married sooner or later. Since Feng Long wants to get married soon then might as well get married soon!”
Zhuan Xu said “You’re not going to consider anyone else?”
Xiao Yao laughed “To be honest you have plenty of talented men reporting to you and Feng Long is just one of them. But his personality is open and easygoing and he isn’t too into romance, plus he’s willing to accept all my quirks. When I agreed to get engaged to him years ago, you were the one who said there couldn’t be a better option than him.”
Zhuan Xu remained silent.
Xiao Yao “Gege!”
Zhuan Xu said “I don’t want you to get married!” His hand was cold and his fingers were shaking.
Xiao Yao patted his hand “I understand.”
“You don’t understand!” Zhuan Xu’s eyes were trained on his feet and his eyes were filled with abject sorrow and despair.
Xiao Yao said “I understand! Years ago when you married Xing Yue, I also felt very upset like she was taking you away from me, that we would be like outsiders from then on.”
Zhuan Xu looked up and stared at Xiao Yao “You were upset when I got married?”
Xiao Yao laughed at herself and nodded “I really felt so awful back then, so angry like something that was mine was being stolen by another. Later I realized I was being petty, you’ve been married to Xing Yue for three years but you’re still my Gege. You didn’t get stolen by Xing Yue. Later when I marry Feng Long, you’re still my closest, most trusted person.”
But he didn’t want just that, he wanted more…… Zhuan Xu could only smile as his heart fell. Xiao Yao didn’t want anything and only asked for her man to have only her. He no longer had the right anymore.
It wasn’t that he didn’t have a chance with her, he actually had more chances than any of the men in her life. When they were working hard to get close to her, he was already deep inside Xiao Yao’s heart. If he but reached out then no one else would ever have a chance. But he needed those men’s help so time and time again he pushed Xiao Yao towards them.
When Xuan Yuan Castle was dangerous to him, he got Jing’s help. When he arrived in the Middle Plains and it was dangerous in Sheng Nong Mountain, he got Feng Long and Jing to unite and back him. Then the entire Middle Plains backed him. But now that he didn’t need help from either of them anymore, Xiao Yao had already given her heart to Jing and pledged her body to Feng Long.
In Xuan Yuan Castle, he knew that night Jing stayed all night in Xiao Yao’s room. But he could only pretend not to know. He stared at the map of the entire vast wilderness all night until sunrise. On Zhi Jing Summit, he knew Xiao Yao went to visit Cao Ao Peak to meet Jing and didn’t come back until the next morning but he could only pretend not to know anything. He tensely studied his work all night. When he was in the most dangerous moment, he knew Xiao Yao agreed to marry Feng Long just for him but he could do nothing to stop it……. Back then he couldn’t even protect himself. A woman who claimed to love him was too scared to even meet with him, but Xiao Yao agreed to marry another man for him.
Zhuan Xu gripped Xiao Yao’s hand tighter and the messenger bird started to cry out trying to escape his hand.
The Yellow Emperor suddenly appeared and yelled “Zhuan Xu!”
Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao looked over at him and the Yellow Emperor said very gently “Zhuan Xu, release the bird and let it go.”
Zhuan Xu gradually released his hand and the messenger bird took fight towards Gao Xing.
Xiao Yao rubbed her hand and said “This matter is a bit abrupt, Feng Long can be very random when he does things.”
Zhuan Xu turned to leave and his voice was dark “Random? He calculated this better than anyone!”
Xiao Yao watched Zhuan Xu disappear into the clouds and asked the Yellow Emperor “Does Zhuan Xu and Feng Long have a conflict I don’t know about?”
The Yellow Emperor smiled “A liege and his subordinate will always help each other but at the same time be wary of each other.”
Xiao Yao wanted to say more but the Yellow Emperor added “Nothing to worry about, Feng Long is a smart man and he will plan what’s best for him but will never cross the line with his liege. But people have tempers so if Zhuan Xu needs him then he also needs to give him some leeway. As the ruler Zhuan Xu needs to have this magnitude.”
Xiao Yao sighed “After the wedding I think it best if I go to Chi Sui Castle. It would be too complicated to stay here!”
The Yellow Emperor smiled and then sighed. Feng Long really was the man most suited for Xiao Yao, he can’t give her deep passion but he can give her a calm uneventful life.
The Yellow Emperor walked off but then turned back to see Xiao Yao sitting beside the window staring into the dark night in a daze. He coughed lightly and Xiao Yao appeared to wake from a trance “Grandfather, you haven’t gone to sleep?”
The Yellow Emperor suddenly said “I asked Zhuan Xu to find any way possible to get Nine Lives Xiang Liu to turn his allegiance to us.”
Xiao Yao bolted upright and stared at the Yellow Emperor.
The Yellow Emperor said “All these years, using any method, any persuasion, any means available, he turned it all down.”
Xiao Yao looked back out into the dark distance and her face showed no emotion, no joy and no sorrow.
“Zhuan Xu ordered that two peaks in Sheng Nong Mountain be designated as off-limits and he has his own personal soldiers guarding it. You ought to know why he did that. Even though Xiang Liu saved your life, but you don’t owe him anything.”
Zhuan Xu went to Xuan Yuan Castle to handle some matters and didn’t come to Xiao Yue Summit for ten plus days.
It was instead Xing Yue who never came that decided to pay a visit.
Last time Xing Yue saw Xiao Yao was when she just returned to Xiao Yue Summit and after that visit she invited Xiao Yao to visit Zhi Jin Palace to see her. Xing Yue was now the Empress and she loved the adulation and respect her position earned her. She liked everyone bowing before her, even Yi Yang who used to give her attitude now had to lower herself before her. But Xiao Yao remained the exception.
Xiao Yao was very respectful to her but never bowed her head to her. From birth until now, Xing Yue never encountered a girl like Xiao Yao. She never looked down on people below her nor did she pander to those with more power than her. She wanted for nothing and wished for nothing.
Xing Yue liked Xiao Yao because she was so different than the other girls, she had this carefree aura about her. But Xing Yue hated Xiao Yao also because she was so different than the other girls, all the things the girls valued became insignificant when it reached Xiao Yao.
Xing Yue was hiding a secret fear deep inside her. When she married Zhuan Xu, he had a smile the entire time but her womanly intuition told her that Zhuan Xu was in the worst mood possible. She actually felt that Zhuan Xu wearing all black was a declaration to the entire world that he was not happy. On their wedding night Zhuan Xu didn’t sleep with her and she endured her anxiety and tried to be nonchalant about it. She turned over to get closer to him but he turned over and was further from her. Xing Yue didn’t know why but the entire night she was in a state of abject worry. She told herself over and over that Zhuan Xu was simply too tired. The next morning she got up and put on a happy face to head out and receive the people’s well-wishes.
The second night Zhuan Xu still didn’t want her. Xing Yue worried the entire night and by morning even her makeup couldn’t mask her dark circles under her eyes. Thank goodness Zhuan Xu was as sweet to her as always during the day and it even led to the people jumping to the wrong conclusion and joking about how Zhuan Xu was going to wear his Empress out if he didn’t control himself.
By the third night, Xing Yue pushed aside her fear and nervousness and took off her robe and embraced Zhuan Xu from behind. She wasn’t as pretty as Jin Xuan or as seductive as Xiao Xiao, she wasn’t as gentle as Shu Hui or as alluring as the Wan Lei Consort….but she was always very certain that she could give Zhuan Xu something none of them could. Yet right now she was frightened.
Zhuan Xu didn’t turn around and was so cold like a rock. Xing Yue’s tears fell and she pressed forward to kiss him.
Zhuan Xu finally turned around and pressed her down underneath him. In the darkness she couldn’t see his face but her body could feel him. In that moment he was like another person, his actions were filled with pent up longing and overflowing tenderness. Xing Yue felt that she was drowning in his passion and in the moment when he entered her, Xing Yue’s tears fell in happiness. Then she heard something, soft and barely perceptible, she heard Zhuan Xu seemingly call out “Xiao Yao”. Xing Yue was like a cat straining to hear but she heard nothing else and soon she was swept up in the moment and forgot everything. By the time she woke the next morning, she couldn’t be certain what she heard last night was real or just a figment of her imagination.
Those three nights became Xing Yue’s deepest secret.
Gradually Xing Yue forgot those three nights because she wanted to forget. Zhuan Xu treated her nice but not passionate though never cold. He treated her better than his other consorts and that was enough to make Xing Yue content.
But just when she was about to forget it completely, Xiao Yao came back. Xing Yue didn’t even know how Xiao Yao came back, but by the time she found out, Xiao Yao was already ensconced in Xiao Yue Summit.
The name Zhuan Xu called that night, whether it was real or not, it caused Xing Yue to develop a hidden fear that she couldn’t tell anyone about. She could only secretly observe and in the last two years since Xiao Yao’s return, Zhuan Xu went to Xiao Yue Summit every day rain or shine. Of course, before Xiao Yao came back he also went every day to greet the Yellow Emperor so no one saw any change in his behavior. But Xing Yue felt it was different but it wasn’t something that could be explained why it was different. When Zhuan Xu went he always had a slight smile on his face and when he returned this was a sliver of tenderness in his eyes. It was the way he occasionally glanced towards Xiao Yue Summit with a fleeting look of longing.
The more Xing Yue observed the more terrified she became. But her terror was something she couldn’t even find evidence for. With Zhuan Xu’s personality, if it was true then why didn’t he just take Xiao Yao for himself? He was already the ruler of a kingdom, there was no need for him to hold himself back! So Xing Yue could only reassure herself that she was over-thinking it all because of a mistaken murmur she heard that night.
But Xing Yue still couldn’t feel relaxed so she went to see Feng Long and asked when her brother was going to marry Xiao Yao. Thank goodness her brother’s answer made her happy because he said he was just thinking the same thing.
Feng Long sighed “If I want to marry it ought to be now otherwise it’ll have to wait until the war is over and by then it’s not clear if Xiao Yao will marry me.”
Xing Yue asked “What do you mean?”
“You have to keep this secret.”
Xing Yue nodded “Gege you know you can trust me to keep silent.”
Feng Long said “Seeing Zhuan Xu’s moves recently, I think he’s planning to attack Gao Xing.”
Xing Yue’s eyes widened and Feng Long smiled “That’s why I told you to never underestimate Zhuan Xu. He is a very scary man!”
After her shock passed Xing Yue felt ecstatic, like she was already able to sneer at Xiao Yao’s upcoming fate.
When Feng Long told Xing Yue that Xiao Yao agreed to get married she asked “What did His majesty say?”
Feng Long replied “Both majesties gave their consent.”
Xing Yue finally felt relieved, she really did conjure up too much in her own night. That night it was just Zhuan Xu’s passionate sigh that she heard wrong.
Xing Yue went to Xiao Yue Summit to visit Xiao Yao with a feeling like she was above Xiao Yao’s fate in life, feeling happy and pitying her at the same time. Xiao Yao didn’t know why Xing Yue’s attitude was so odd this time but she felt Xing Yue was suddenly nicer to her because she was marrying Feng Long soon.
Xiao Yao treated Xing Yue the same as always, respectful but not deferential. Xing Yue and Xiao Yao chatted about this and that and she lingered until the Yellow Emperor returned to the hut carrying a hoe on his shoulder.
The Yellow Emperor was wearing a farmer’s hat with his pant legs rolled up and his feet covered in mud. He smiled at Xing Yue with no stern aura in his expression but Xing Yue felt like her inner most thoughts were laid bare before the Yellow Emperor’s eyes. It was like sharp daggers digging into her back and Xing Yue couldn’t sit another second and quickly greeted the Yellow Emperor and took her leave.
The Grand Emperor wrote back to Xiao Yao that he and Feng Long’s grandfather had conferred and set the wedding for two months hence.
Ever since Xiao Yao got engaged the Grand Emperor had her trousseau prepared already so all Xiao Yao needed to do was don her wedding dress and walk down the aisle. But the Grand Emperor requested that Xiao Yao return to Five Gods Mountain to prepare for the wedding before he would announce the wedding date to the entire world.
Xiao Yao knew why her dad did this, it wasn’t to adhere to wedding custom because her dad didn’t care about that. It was the request of a father who was worried and anxious over the future of his daughter and wanted to confirm her decision one last time. He wanted to be certain that Feng Long was the man his daughter wanted to entrust the rest of her life to.
Xiao Yao wrote back that she would return to Gao Xing after she did a final personal matter.
Xiao Yao went through Yu Jiang to contact Chi Sui Xian to ask her to dig up something that Xiao Yao asked her to bury a few years ago.
After Zhuan Xu assumed the throne, Xiao Yao used her position for the first time in her life to have precious treasures from around the vast wilderness collected and brought to her.
From the Northeast tops of the Snow Mountain, she collected a piece of Snow Mountain Ice Essence. It grew on the tops of the Snow Mountain and itself was not poisonous. But if something poisonous went inside when it was forming, then it would soak up the poison and after tens of thousands of years it would become one of the most poisonous things in the world. This particular Ice Essence that Xiao Yao found happened to have an injured ice worm demon crawl inside so after countless thousands of years underneath Snow Mountain, it had become a piece of extremely rare poisonous ice. It appeared like a beautiful piece of icy jade but actually exuded a poisonous aura that could pierce straight to the heart.
Xiao Yao used all her effort to carve this piece of poisonous Ice Essence into the shape of a sea clam shell, she carved two sides of an exquisite white clam shell with wave ripples along the edges. When it was opened it resembled a blooming flower.
Xiao Yao then used all sorts of exotic herbs and poisons to create two merpeople. She put the mermaid on the clam shell and she put the merman in the corner away from the clam shell. Xiao Yao also made red coral and colorful little fishes.
After it was all completed, Xiao Yao brought out the ice crystals collected from the North Pole and had a specialist split it open and hollow it out. She put the red coral in first and secured it on the bottom. Then she mixed up a batch of poisons with Jade Mountain bone essence to create a blue liquid suspension that she filled the ice crystal ball with so it appeared like blue water. She then put the clam shell with the mermaid and the merman carefully inside the poisonous liquid and surrounded it with the colorful fish. She then closed up the ice crystal ball and used her spiritual power to temporarily seal it.
To permanently seal back up an opened ice crystal required that it be returned to the North Pole and placed back inside the ice mountains. Then a powerful ice spirit god or goddess would then create a spiritual maze around it. After two or three more years, the opened up ice crystal would permanently seal back up without any signs it had ever been opened.
Back then when Xiao Yao finished to the final step, she racked her brains and remembered the most powerful ice power god in the vast wilderness was Chi Sui Xian. She asked Zhuan Xu if she could ask Xian to help and he said “You found the right person. I’ll have Yu Jiang ask her for help. That ice goddess is quite warm towards Yu Jiang.”
When Xian came to see Xiao Yao, she thought Xian would look down on her for asking such a powerful goddess to do such a little favor. But when Xian saw Xiao Yao’s creation she exclaimed “It’s so beautiful! You must have spent a lot of time?”
Xiao Yao nodded.
Xian said “I’ll help you seal it into the ice mountain in the North Pole. When you need to retrieved just have someone send me a message.”
Four years had passed and now Xiao Yao needed to take it out. When Xian brought the ice crystal back, she placed it on a dish and it was covered with more ice so looked just like a regular chunk of ice crystal dug out from the North Pole.
Xiao Yao asked a master carver who spent three days and three nights to finally shape the ice crystal into a round ball.
The clear exquisite ice crystal, inside was the deep blue sea, and in the water was colorful little fishes swimming and beautiful red coral. There was an all-white giant clam shell like a blooming flower and inside a beautiful mermaid sat on the clam shell. Her hair flowed like seaweed and her beautiful tail was half on the clam shell and half in the water. She had one hand on her heart and the other hand reached out towards the distance like she wanted to grab onto something or like she was calling someone to her. In the direction where her hand stretched there was a merman floating in the water. He appeared close to the clam shell but he was coldly staring outside the ice crystal ball so that it felt like he was actually in another world and not in the world of the peaceful isolated ocean with the mermaid.
The underwater world inside the ice crystal was too beautiful that it appeared like a blue-colored dream.
When the ice crystal ball was placed on the table, it was so cold the icy air swirled around it and make it even more illusory like it could vanish in a gust of wind, except the ice crystal was so hard that even knives and swords couldn’t damage it.
The Yellow Emperor saw what Xiao Yao had made and he was so taken aback. He walked into the hut and carefully examined it for a long time. He said nothing other than to sigh “Only you will waste such precious things.”
Xiao Yao stared at the ice crystal ball and said “This is the last time.”
Xiao Yao wrapped the ice crystal ball in a demon bear pelt and sent it along with a letter inside a jade container. She went to the Tu Shan clan messenger shop and paid five times more than usual to deliver it as soon as possible to Qing Shui Town.
Inside the jade container was a letter with only one short message:
“In two months I am getting married. This is the last poison I will make for you. Please accept with a smile.”
After Xiao Yao left the messenger shop, she wandered around the streets of Zhi Yi and could see it was even more bustling than before. This newly designated capital was bigger, more vibrant, more diverse than Xuan Yuan Castle. But for some reason Xiao Yao missed the Zhi Yi Castle she first encountered when she first arrived in the Middle Plains with Zhuan Xu.
A fragrant scent wafted out from the snack shop and Xiao Yao went to buy some duck neck and chicken feet which the shop owner wrapped carefully in lotus leaves. She then went to the next door wine shop to buy a jug of plum wine.
Back then she loved to snack because it was delicious and she couldn’t help but want to nibble on it. Now she realized it wasn’t the taste but the feeling. Back then she thought she was all wizened inside but she was still a very young girl who could happily enjoy the delights of the world.
Xiao Yao left Zhi Yi Castle and Miao Pu was waiting for her by the cloud carriage. She saw her carrying two bags and laughed “Princess hasn’t bought these things in a long time.”
Xiao Yao got on the cloud carriage and said suddenly “I’m not going back yet.”
Miao Pu asked “Where to then, Princess?”
Xiao Yao was silent for a moment and then said “Accompany me to Qing Qiu.”
Miao Pu was startled and asked “What does Princess want to do in Qing Qiu?”
Xiao Yao stared at Miao Pu and she immediately said “Yes! Departing right away!”
An hour later the cloud carriage landed in Qing Qiu and Xiao Yao got out and glanced over at Qing Qiu Mountain. The mountain was still the same, trees green and rivers flowing, but the person and situation was no longer there.
She slowly walked along the Qing Qiu streets. Qing Qiu was close to Zhi Yi but very different since the people of Qing Qiu were very well off thanks to the Tu Shan clan. The people walking on the streets ambled because they could afford to enjoy life. Xiao Yao unexpectedly came and she didn’t know why she came either. She just walked with no destination in sight with Miao Pu trailing behind her.
Xiao Yao walked until suddenly Miao Pu called out “Princess!” and pulled her sleeve.
Xiao Yao stopped and glanced quizzically back at Miao Pu who whispered “Over there!”
Xiao Yao looked in that direction and saw Jing standing not far from her. Neither expected to run into each other on the streets of Qing Qiu so as people passed them by both stood rooted in place like a spell was cast on them.
Finally Jing got a hold of himself and rushed over to Xiao Yao “Xiao Yao……….” He had a million things to say to her but couldn’t say any of it.
Xiao Yao’s smile was beaming “I randomly came for a twirl, didn’t expect to run into you.”
Xiao Yao handed over the packages in her hand and Jing instinctively took it. Xiao Yao smiled “In two months Feng Long and I will be getting married. Please attend with your wife when the day arrives.”
Jing dropped the items in his hand and the jug of wine smashed on the ground and the scent of plum wine wafted in the air. Xiao Yao ignored it and bowed to Jing with a smile before turning and quickly walking away.
“Xiao Yao…….” Jing reached out his hand but couldn’t keep her there and could only watch as her sleeve slipped through his fingers and she floated off.
Moments later Jing kneeled down and picked up the other package and opened it to find the duck necks and chicken feet.
In that split second the past came rushing back——-
The first time he went into the kitchen he was so clumsy and Xiao Yao laughed at him and then came to help.
The first thing he learned to make was marinated duck neck. When Xiao Liu ate it his eyes lit up and whispered “Yours taste better than Lao Mu. But what will happen if I get used to your flavor?” He smiled and said nothing but in his heart he thought “I want you to get used to it because I’ll make it for you for the rest of your life.”
Inside the Evergreen Residence, he taught her to play the zither but she hadn’t the patience to learn. She liked to munch on a duck neck and make him play for her. She would solemnly declare “Since you know how to play, in the future if I want to listen to music you can just play for me.”
On Sheng Nong Mountain, munching on duck necks and drinking plum wine they talked all night…….
Everything was as vivid as if it was yesterday. But she…..she was about to become another man’s wife! Her life would no longer have anything to do with him!
Jing felt such pain in his heart he couldn’t speak. Such pain that a sweet acrid taste rose up in his throat and he started coughing violently.
Zhuan Xu came to Xiao Yue Summit that evening and found Xiao Yao had personally cooked dinner for him. Xiao Yao’s cooking wasn’t bad but she was lazy so rarely cooked. The fact that she cooked for him made Zhuan Xu so happy he ate a lot and the two of them kept the Yellow Emperor company with lots of laughter and chatter.
After dinner Xiao Yao bid farewell to Zhuan Xu since she planned to leave first thing in the morning for Five Gods Mountain.
Zhuan Xu simply smiled and said nothing.
The Yellow Emperor gently said “You go back first, later Zhuan Xu and I will have the trousseau our side prepared for you sent over.”
Zhuan Xu had Miao Pu bring out the wine and Xiao Yao also wanted to drink so order Miao Pu to bring out big bowls.
Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu started gulping bowl after bowl of wine. Their tolerance level was equal and back in Qing Shui Town they never could determine who could drink more because both held back.
Tonight they drank and held nothing back, gulping down wine like water until both were roaring drunk. Zhuan Xu grabbed Xiao Yao’s hand and kept saying “Don’t leave me!” Xiao Yao kept hollering “It’s you guys who don’t want me!”
Zhuan Xu said “I want you. You be my Empress. I don’t want anyone else, I’ll kick them all out……”
The Yellow Emperor asked “Who is the personal guard tonight?”
Xiao Xiao walked out and the Yellow Emperor said “Take Zhuan Xu back now.”
Xiao Xiao picked up Zhuan Xu who held onto Xiao Yao’s hand and refused to let go “I don’t want any other woman, I just want you……..”
The Yellow Emperor raised his palm and struck Zhuan Xu unconscious with one blow to the neck.
The Yellow Emperor stared at Xiao Xiao “You guard him personally tonight. If anyone else hears a word he says tonight, kill that person immediately.”
“Yes!” Xiao Xiao picked up Zhuan Xu and vaulted on a winged ride and was gone in the clouds.
Xiao Yao woke up at dawn with a raging headache. Her things were packed so after breakfast she bowed three times to the Yellow Emperor and climbed on the cloud carriage.
Once she arrived on Five Gods Mountain, as expected her dad asked again if she was certain she wanted to marry Chi Sui Feng Long.
Xiao Yao giggled “If I didn’t want to marry him then why get engaged to him?”
The Grand Emperor said “Back then Zhuan Xu was surrounded by danger from all sides so knowing your personality you would do anything to help you. If you didn’t get engaged to Feng Long, the Middle Plains clans and families would never have banded together to back him.”
Xiao Yao said “But Grandfather planned to pass the throne to Zhuan Xu already.”
The Grand Emperor said “Silly girl, it’s not the same. If the Middle Plains didn’t band together then the Yellow Emperor may have waited to keep watching Zhuan Xu and delay the passing of the throne. With one delay anything can happen. If it wasn’t for the Four Great Clans banding together to lead the other Middle Plains families, do you think they would support Zhuan Xu this completely? In their eyes Zhuan Xu is the bloodline of Xuan Yuan and the Middle Plains are natural rivals. But because of their battle with the Yellow Emperor they think Zhuan Xu is the Emperor they chose and not the successor the Yellow Emperor chose thus all their rivalry vanished.”
Xiao Yao said nothing. When she agreed to marry Feng Long it was because of Zhuan Xu, she kept insisting otherwise because she didn’t want him to feel bad. But now she didn’t want to call off the wedding because Feng Long was the best choice for her. He knew about her past with Jing and accept it. They also agreed that he would help Zhuan Xu and he did do that. Feng Long help up his end of the bargain, it was Xiao Yao’s turn to fulfill her end of the promise.
The Grand Emperor said “I’ll give you seven days to reconsider.”
During the ensuing seven days, Xiao Yao really did reconsider and think carefully. Every day she sat on the jagged rocks outside of the Dragon Bone Prison and looked out over the deep blue ocean.
When Ah Nian went to get her, she could see the blue horizon, the red rocks on the cliffs, and Xiao Yao dressed all in white sitting bare foot on the black jagged rocks as the waves crested at her feet.
This image was impossible to describe other than Ah Nian felt a sense of utter desolation for her sister. Xiao Yao’s image made her think of the legends of old, of a fisherman’s wife sitting on the rocks waiting for her lover to come back, sitting and waiting for so long she turned into a rock.
Ah Nian had to break the desolation so she flew over and yelled “Jiejie!”
Xiao Yao smiled at Ah Nian and then continued looking out over the horizon. Ah Nian said down beside her “Jiejie, what are you thinking about?”
Ah Nian also looked out on the horizon and sighed “I remember it was near here that I pushed you into the ocean. Back then I was so unhappy but know I realize it was nothing.”
Xiao Yao smiled “You’ve grown up.”
Ah Nian asked “Jiejie, what were you doing that night here?”
Xiao Yao said “I came to see a friend.”
“Then later, did that Nine-headed demon Xiang Liu continue to harass you?”
Xiao Yao shook her head.
Ah Nian said “I thought that demon was pretty fascinating.”
Xiao Yao looked back out over the blue ocean and said nothing.
Seven days later the Grand Emperor asked Xiao Yao “Have you decided?”
Xiao Yao said “I decided, announce the wedding date!”
The Grand Emperor said nothing and announced the wedding date to the world. In the Autumn month on the 22nd day, Eldest Princess Gao Xing Jiu Yao was going to get married.
The Chi Sui clan sent out wedding invitations to the world since the Chi Sui clan leader wasn’t just the leader of the clan that was the head of the Four Great Clans, he was also the son of the Sheng Nong tribe head Little Zhu Rong as well as the older brother of the Xuan Yuan Empress. The entire vast wilderness mobilize to attend for Chi Sui Feng Long, and also for the Grand Emperor, the Black Emperor, and the Yellow Emperor. Not to mention the Royal Mother from Jade Mountain.
The Chi Sui clan wedding presents were sent to Gao Xing on a fleet of ships so vast it was impossible to see the first and last ship in once glance. A few years ago when the Xuan Yuan Black Emperor married his Empress, the entire Xuan Yuan Kingdom celebrated. But this time for the marriage of the Chi Sui clan leader and the Gao Xing Eldest Princess, the entire vast wilderness was celebrating. When the news reached Qing Shui Town, all the restaurants were abuzz and even the brothel ladies couldn’t stop gossiping about it.
Xiang Liu was drinking and discussing matters when conversation reached him.
Some said the Chi Sui clan leader was marrying the Gao Xing Princess for connections, other said he really loved her and promised that she would be his one and only woman in this lifetime, still others said the Princess was so beautiful she was unreal…..
So many rumors and suggestions but it all reached the same conclusion “This Princess sure has got a lucky life!”
Everyone sighed “This wedding is the biggest event in the last hundreds of years in the vast wilderness.”
Xiang Liu stood up with a smile and bid farewell to the people he was drinking with.
He walked out of the brothel to find a misty rain falling.
He walked through a long street towards the western riverbanks, strolling slowly.
He stood by the edge of the river and stared out at the water and misty air and it was impossible to tell what he was thinking.
After a long time he looked down and opened his hand and in his palm was an ice crystal ball.
Misty raindrops fell on his palm and created an icy mist around the ice crystal ball. It made the blue water inside even more vibrant like the ocean under a full moon,
The blue ocean depths, the isolated peacefulness, the mermaid sitting on her beautiful clam shell home reaching out her hand to beckon, to plead, to summon. But the merman just coldly looked out at the world outside the ice crystal ball.
Xiang Liu stared at the ice crystal scene for a long long time.
Slowly he reached out a finger and pressed it on the ice crystal so it looked like he was taking the mermaid’s outstretched hand.
At at glance it appeared that they were holding hands but in truth the ice crystal separated them. They were from two completely different worlds, they could never truly be together.