Translating this chapter of Lost You Forever took forever because it’s basically three chapters in length, not to mention the tears and snot that poured forth which required me to take numerous breaks in order to calm myself down. This is by far the most touching and devastatingly sad chapter of LYF but it’s not sad for Xiao Yao or any of the three men in her life. This chapter is a look into the past, the past of Once Promised that chronicled the story of Xiao Yao’s parents. Her mother the Xuan Yuan Princess and her father the Sheng Nong Great General, theirs was a Romeo and Juliet star-crossed love story that is heartbreaking and unforgettable. It was through their love and sacrifice that Xiao Yao is alive and sharing her story with us, so it’s only fitting that Xiao Yao finally learns the real truth behind all the rumors and terrible reputation that has dogged her daddy his entire life. Her mom couldn’t have fallen in love with a ruthless bastard so why was Qi Yo persona non grata in the entire vast wilderness? What exactly happened hundreds of years ago that decimated Xiao Yao’s loved ones but brought about the peace of the current Sheng Nong-Xuan Yuan unified under one kingdom prosperity?
I don’t blame Xiao Yao for being angry and petulant in the way she thinks about her parents and the legacy they left her, but sometimes the best people suffer to make the world better. Qi Yo was willing to play the part of the villain and do the dirty work that needed to be done to rid Sheng Nong of its rotting status quo but he did it before he knew that one day he would leave behind a daughter that would suffer for being related to him. It’s easy to be a martyr, harder to let your loved ones suffer with the aftermath the martyrdom. After this chapter I’ve translated the most critical portions of the last two chapters of Once Promised. It helps to paint a complete picture for the viewers who didn’t read OP. I wish I had the time and fortitude to translate OP as well since the love story between Xiao Yao’s parents is actually much more satisfying to read mostly because that novel didn’t have a real love triangle. Here there is basically a love quadrangle so the romance gets split four ways and the readers are left with each of Xiao Yao’s guys being awesome in their own way but lacking something different each. Xiao Yao’s mom got lucky in her man having all the strengths and flaws combined together into one passionate devoted man who loved only her.
Chapter 36 – Flowers Bloom Flowers Wilt, Farewell to a Loved One:
Towards the end of Spring, Fang Feng Yi Yang fell ill and her father the Fang Feng family head rushed to Qing Qiu to see her. Two days later the Tu Shan clan leader and the Fang Feng family head together announced that the Madam had passed away.
All the clans and families in the vast wilderness sent their condolences but there were few that truly mourned Fang Feng Yi Yang. Almost all cared only about who would be the future Tu Shan clan leader wife. The Middle Plains custom was to wait a year after the death of a wife to remarry but anxious clan leaders were already sending inquiries to the Tu Shan clan leader to try and ascertain the type of woman he liked.
After the funeral Jing left Qing Qiu and continued to reside in Zhi Yi Castle.
With the Yellow Emperor’s permission, Jing came to Xiao Yue Summit daily not to spend time with Xiao Yao but to accede to the Yellow Emperor’s wishes and play Go with him. Using a specially created godly Go board, the board represented the entire world and the battle was far reaching. One match often lasted for months.
Xiao Yao would hang around them and read her medical texts or nap.
One evening a match finally concluded.
The Yellow Emperor stared at the board and sighed “It’s a shame that your objective in life isn’t on this; it’s a relief that your objective in life isn’t on this!”
Xiao Yao brought over plum soup and peered at the match but understood nothing “Who won?”
Jing smiled “Of course I lost.”
Xiao Yao smiled sweetly and handed the bowls of soup over.
The Yellow Emperor grumbled “The Middle Plains customs are the worst. What’s the point of mourning? If the heart misses the deceased then a person will mourn forever, if the heart has moved on then it doesn’t matter how long customary mourning lasts. Us Northwestern tribes view such matters clearer, for a widow or widower, one can have a funeral in the morning and a wedding ceremony in the afternoon. Many tribes go to funerals and then weddings on the same day.”
Xiao Yao spit out her plum soup with a laugh “Grandfather, you’re regressing in how you talk! They say older folks become kids as they age and now I actually believe it!”
The Yellow Emperor shook his head at Xiao Yao “You! I’m worried for your sake!”
Xiao Yao blushed and muttered “I’m in no rush to get married!”
“You’re not in a rush but someone else is. Otherwise why would he quickly arrange a funeral when Fang Feng Yi Yang is clearly still alive.”
Xiao Yao glanced at Jing “He pities Fang Feng Yi Yang and thought of this plan for her to die publicly so she doesn’t have to be sacrificed to the gods anymore and can live to watch her son grow up.”
Jing candidly admitted “Helping Fang Feng Yi Yang was secondary, my main purpose was to marry Xiao Yao sooner.”
Xiao Yao wanted to glare at Jing but when she met his eyes her heart started to race. She was angry but also touched and she lowered her head to focus on drinking her plum soup but her cheeks remained brightly flushed.
Jing said to the Yellow Emperor “Your majesty, I have a matter to beg your allowance.”
“I want to take Xiao Yao out to travel.”
The Yellow Emperor said nothing and Jing added “I know Your majesty is worried about her safety but she can’t hide here forever. These past few months Xiao Yao has picked up her archery again and is making poisons as well, she has the ability to protect herself.”
The Yellow Emperor sighed “I know that raising baby eagles requires setting them free when they are grown but now that I’m older I still worry.”
“If Your majesty is worried then you can send secret guards to protect us.”
Xiao Yao grumbled “Grandfather, don’t forget that I wandered the world alone for hundreds of years, I raised myself!”
The Yellow Emperor decided “Xiao Yao does need to go out to clear her mind, you guys go!”
Jing bowed “Thank Your majesty!”
Zhuan Xu heard Xiao Yao was traveling with Jing and didn’t agree but the Yellow Emperor already agreed so he relented after Xiao Yao begged him. His only requirement was that she was to take Xiao Xiao and Miao Pu along.
In the Summer Jing set off with Xiao Yao and Jing Ye, Hu Zhen, Hu Ya, Xiao Xiao, and Miao Pu. They traveled until they reached Chi Sui where they boarded a ship and headed into Gao Xing territory.
Xiao Yao was perplexed and asked Jing “Are you going to do business or have something else in mind?”
Jing smiled “Business of course but I do have other plans.”
“What other plans?”
“One of them is to tour the scenic vistas.”
Xiao Yao walked to the ship bow and stared at the familiar scenery “There are so many beautiful vistas in the world, why bring me to Gao Xing? Don’t you know the Emperor and citizens here don’t welcome me?”
Jing handed a jug of plum wine to Xiao Yao and embraced her waist “The year of the Chi Sui Autumn Tournament, when you left I really wanted to send you off. I arrived at the port but could only stay in the carriage and have a servant send the snacks to you. I wanted to see you but only saw Zhuan Xu, Ah Nian, Feng Long, and Xing Yue talking on the ship. Until the ship disappeared from view I still didn’t see you. I knew you were about to reclaim your princess identity and we might not be fated to be together so my heart hurt. I kept convincing myself that I would travel this route again with you someday and tell you that I came personally to see you off that day”
Xiao Yao’s eyes misted and she leaned into Jing’s embrace and drank the plum wine while watching the view pass by.
The entire trip Jing really was just sightseeing with no rush and often docking the ship to shore and taking Xiao Yao to explore.
Even though Xiao Yao wandered for hundreds of years, it was in the Middle Plains and she never explored Gao Xing. Jing was different, being the clan leader designate since he was young meant he traveled for business all over the vast wilderness. Whether it was the dangerous and scary Jiu Li, the unpredictable ocean, he visited everywhere before. This trip he knew where all the fun things were and the delicious food spots and he planned everything so that Xiao Yao was totally taken care of.
Since her mom died, Xiao Yao finally felt like she could be a kid and just enjoy without any worry or planning.
That night the two of them camped out on the mountain top.
Xiao Yao smiled “Let me show you something!” and then she climbed up a tree like a monkey to rest on the branch.
Jing took out a jade container and released spiders who quickly got to work between the branches.
Xiao Yao stared “Are you planning to make a web lace?”
Jing vaulted to Xiao Yao’s side and embraced her, blocking the cold night wind for her “I’ve raised these spiders since I was small, they make light and soft but impervious webs.”
Xiao Yao stared as the spiders worked feverishly until they made a web hammock between the branches. They returned to Jing who fed them bone essence and they happily retreated back to the jade container.
Xiao Yao didn’t know how Jing raised them but the spiders produced a sky blue web that glittered in the moonlight. She asked “Are you planning to take it back to make clothes with it?”
Jing smiled and then grabbed Xiao Yao in his arms to vault down and landed on the web. It was soft like resting on clouds. Xiao Yao marveled at how it even felt warm and laughed “Jing, you’re so clever even as a kid, to think of such a method of camping outdoors. Of course only the Tu Shan clan can afford it.”
Jing smiled wistfully at memories of the past “My mom and my brother really spoiled me.”
Xiao Yao laid on the web and stared at the stars above. Since wandering the world as a child, she slept outdoors countless times and it was never something she found fun. It was because she had no home so she had to sleep outside in a dangerous place where she had to always be on guard. But tonight sleeping outside became something different. Xiao Yao said in a low voice “Jing, these days I feel like I’m a kid again, and being with you feels like having my mom by my side.”
Jing coughed a few times and muttered “That doesn’t feel like a compliment.”
Xiao Yao flipped over and stared at him with a smile “I’m not saying you’re like my mom, it’s more….it feels like when I was small and didn’t need to think or worry about anything. Every day was happy.” Xiao Yao’s smile gradually disappeared “It all feels like a dream and I’m afraid I’ll wake up from the dream like when I was small.”
Jing softly kissed her “This isn’t a dream. We’ll walk the rest of our lives together.”
Xiao Yao smiled “Yes.”
The wind gently rocked their web hammock and the two laid next to each together staring at the glittering stars shining down on them.
They walked and stopped the whole way until a month later they reached the sea near Gao Xing and by then it was the end of Summer.
Xiao Xiao said to Jing “Clan leader, if you want to go to the sea to sight-see, why don’t we head North. The East Sea has beautiful scenery and its a good place for my lady to wait for you if you have business to discuss.”
Jing said “That works.”
Jing changed course and headed North to the East Sea. He took Jing Ye and Hu Ya on a boat to Five Gods Mountain to discuss business and afterwards planned to rendezvous with Xiao Yao on the East Sea.
Xiao Yao watched Jing’s boat disappear from view before heading back inside the cabin. When Jing’s boat entered Gao Xing borders, Ru So arrived on a large ship to receive him and he boarded the ship.
Jing said to Ru So “Please send word to His majesty that Tu Shan Jing and Xi Ling Jiu Yao ask for a meeting with him. If he’s willing we’ll go up the mountain and if not then we’ll leave.”
Ru So was stunned and the Jing Ye standing behind Jing stepped forward and took off her spider web spin face mask with a smile “Lord Ru So, long time no see. Have you been well these days?”
Ru So was silent for a bit and then said “I’ll go see His majesty now” and swiftly departed on his winged ride with no regard for pleasantries.
Xiao Yao stood beside Jing with her heart hanging in the balance but he patted her hand to assure her.
Ru So returned shortly with smile “His majesty asks both of you to come up the mountain.”
Xiao Yao let out a small sigh of relief but got even more nervous as the cloud carriage ascended. It stopped in front of Cheng En Palace and Ru So said “His majesty is inside.”
Jing said to Xiao Yao “Wait for me here.”
Xiao Yao nodded.
Jing entered the palace court and noticed the Grand Emperor’s eyes staring past him. Jing said with a bow “Xiao Yao is outside waiting but I wanted to speak privately with Your majesty first.”
The Grand Emperor had no emotion on his face as he looked at Jing calmly.
Jing said “These recent months I’ve done all I can to search for information about Your majesty and Qi Yo. Whether it was Your majesty or Qi Yo, both are incisively smart and overly cautious and wary people. If Xiao Yao’s mother wanted to fool the world it wasn’t hard. But to fool either or both of you, it would be impossible. Unless someone helped her, that is. My guess is when Xiao Yao was born, Your majesty knew that she was Qi Yo’s daughter. Because there was Your majesty helping to place the Face Forming Flower in Xiao Yao, that is why she resembled you so much when she was small.”
The Grand Emperor still had no expression but he coolly said “Your conclusion is correct, it was Ah Heng and I who sealed the Face Forming Flower in Xiao Yao’s body.”
Ah Heng must be the name that her close family called the Xuan Yuan Princess. Jing continued “The world thinks that Your majesty doesn’t know the truth and thus treated Xiao Yao as your daughter. They don’t know that you know the truth and still treated Xiao Yao as your daughter. I can guess that it was the Black Emperor who spread the rumor far and wide, and Your majesty is so smart you probably also figured that out already. I believe I know why he did it, and I think Your majesty does as well.”
Jing kneeled down and bowed his head to the floor “Jing thanks Your majesty for your love and protection of Xiao Yao.” Jing was the Tu Shan clan leader and when he saw the Yellow Emperor or the Grand Emperor he only needed to bow at the waist yet he was giving a full on the floor bow right now to the Grand Emperor.
The Grand Emperor was expressionless and motioned for Jing to rise “Did the clan leader come to see me just to say these pointless things?”
Jing sat down and continued “After Xiao Yao learned she was Qi Yo’s daughter, she’s been devastated. Now she appears accepting but it’s just her masking her inner pain. Your majesty knows Xiao Yao’s personality, she doesn’t care whether her dad is an emperor or a demon bastard, she’s upset because both her mom and her dad abandoned her and left her only lies. She is also sad because of Qi Yo, because all she knows about him was what the entire world thinks of him as a vicious bloodthirsty demon who killed indiscriminately. In this world only Your majesty knows information about Xiao Yao’s parents so I beg of you to tell her about the past.”
The Grand Emperor’s right hand unconsciously stroked the white bone ring on his left hand and his eyes stared at a point in the distance beyond Jing. His expressionless expression didn’t change but there was slight confusion in his eyes mixed with desolation. He murmured “Does Ah Heng really want Xiao Yao to know? I always thought Ah Heng wanted Xiao Yao to live free without a care.”
“Since Xiao Yao was born her life has determined that she can’t grow up like Ah Nian. Now that she’s grown up, no matter how painful and cruel the truth is, please tell Xiao Yao everything because only the truth can open her heart so that one day she can live carefree.”
The Grand Emperor murmured “She’s grown up?” When Ah Heng gave birth to Xiao Yao in a dangerous delivery, Ah Heng was in a coma for over a year and he was the one who slept with baby Xiao Yao and fed her. Ah Heng, why do I feel like Xiao Yao is still a daughter that must be protected at all costs? But she really is all grown up now!
Jing wanted to talk but heard the Grand Emperor say out loud “Ah Heng, our daughter is all grown up!” Jing realized then that the Grand Emperor wasn’t talking to him.
The Grand Emperor said to Jing “You can leave now!”
Jing tried to ask “Shall I bring Xiao Yao to see Your majesty?”
The Grand Emperor waved his hand “You guys head down the mountain and the boat will take you to Chi Sui.” After that he walked out of the chambers.
Xiao Yao saw Jing come out and rushed over “Da…..His majesty discussed business with you? How come it took so long? He….shall I go inside now?”
Jing said apologetically “His majesty told us to head down the mountain and a boat will take us to Chi Sui.”
Xiao Yao was heartbroken but put on an indifferent look “I told you already that no one on this land welcomes me. Forget it, no need to meet, let’s go!”
After taking the cloud carriage down, Xiao Yao saw a Gao Xing ship on the waters and Ru So formed a water bridge for Xiao Yao and Jing to board. Xiao Yao rushed on as if she couldn’t wait to leave while Jing pondered as he walked and wasn’t clear what he said wrong. How come the Grand Emperor changed his mind and actually kicked him and Xiao Yao off the mountain?
After they boarded the ship immediately set sail towards the Northwest.
Xiao Yao said to Ru So “We can go alone just take us out of Five Gods Mountain.”
Ru So answered “His majesty’s orders was to take you to Chi Sui.”
Xiao Yao was furious “Jing!”
Jing pulled Xiao Yao aside and asked “Do you still want to go to the East Sea to play?” Xiao Yao shook her head. Jing said “Then catch a ride on their ship, with a god at the helm this ship is immensely fast and we’ll arrive in three to four days.”
Xiao Yao groused “I just feel like they can’t even bear for me to be in Gao Xing for one extra second and is rushing to personally escort me to Chi Sui.”
Jing was silent and then pointed skyward “Look!”
Xiao Yao looked to where he was pointing and saw the ocean with Five Gods Mountain in the background in the fog and this beautiful view was likely her last time seeing it so she silently took it all in.
Four days later the ship entered Chi Sui waters and Xiao Yao thought the ship would pull to shore to let them off but Ru So didn’t slow down the ship or appear to have any intention of docking it.
The ship sped towards Chi Sui Castle and years ago it was also Ru So who delivered her in the wedding party there. Xiao Yao leaned against the railing and asked “Ru So, are you still upset I ran away from my wedding? Do you want to personally deliver me to the Chi Sui residence so they can punish me? Right now everyone hates me so the Chi Sui clan is actually happy and grateful now that I ran away from the wedding and spared them having me in their family.”
Ru So was chatting with Jing and acted like he didn’t hear Xiao Yao and it was Jing who grinned at her.
Xiao Yao looked out over the railing where the view was lush green fields and forests when suddenly the view turned completely barren. Xiao Yao remembered seeing this barren area years ago when she came to the Autumn Tournament with Zhuan Xu and she asked Ru So and Jing “Do you guys know why this area is a barren desert?”
Jing said “Rumor has it a monster lives inside.”
Xiao Yao’s eyes suddenly bulged forward and Jing followed her and saw the Grand Emperor standing on the ship looking towards the barren wasteland. He was wearing a simple white robe with none of the emperor trappings and looked like a warrior wandering the world.
Jing bowed “Your majesty.”
The Grand Emperor walked to Xiao Yao and grabbed her hand and flew up in the air with her towards the barren land on shore. Jing hurried to join them.
After the three of them reached shore, Jing looked back and saw the ship speeding off as if nothing happened, still heading forward with people on the dock busy preparing to unload wares once the port was reached.
Xiao Yao tried to pull her hand back but the Grand Emperor didn’t let go. Xiao Yao grumbled “You don’t consider me your daughter anymore, why hold onto me?”
The Grand Emperor pulled Xiao Yao behind him into the barren land and Xiao Yao had no choice but to go with him.
In the beginning there were some cactus growing on the ground but as they headed deeper inside gradually there was nothing living around. Xiao Yao tossed her handkerchief into the air and it instantly burned up. Xiao Yao stared in shock and realized why the Grand Emperor held her hand, if it wasn’t for his spiritual power shielding her, she would have been burned already.
Xiao Yao asked “Dad, where are we going?” After she said that she realized she couldn’t call him dad anymore but it was too late to take it back so she grew silent.
The Grand Emperor turned to look at Xiao Yao warmly but didn’t answer her question. He said instead “I was born the Eldest Prince of Gao Xing and my mother was my father’s first wife and empress. Reportedly they were very much in love but she died giving birth to me. Soon afterwards a pair of sisters from the Chang Yi tribe entered the Palace and my father had new loves. Since I was small there would be constant accidents befalling me in the Palace. A few times I almost died. Later my uncle helped me leave Five Gods Mountain and I wandered the vast wilderness. I settled down in a little town and opened a blacksmith shop. One day your Eldest Uncle came to ask me to fix his sword. We didn’t know each other’s real identity as the Eldest Prince of Gao Xing and the Eldest Prince of Xuan Yuan and we became best friends.”
Xiao Yao listened raptly.
“Your mom was the only Princess of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom and is about a thousand years younger than me. When your mom was just born your Eldest Uncle jokingly said to me “You can become my brother-in-law!” Years later because of the Grand Empress and my many half-brothers, I almost died again. Your Eldest Uncle came to me after that attempt on my life and official proposed an engagement between your mom and me. He explained that I can use the alliance with the Xuan Yuan Princess to keep myself alive while he can use my Gao Xing Eldest Prince status to help keep his mom and younger brothers safe. I agreed with his proposal but rather than saying your mom and I got engaged it was really two princes in peril, myself and Prince Qing Yang, announcing to the world an alliance for our own protection. At that time your mom just learned to walk and couldn’t even talk yet and honestly I never imagined I would ever marry her so I never saw the engagement as real…..”
In the Grand Emperor’s recollection, the past appeared before Xiao Yao’s eyes, all those past happiness and sorrows: Eldest Uncle Qing Yang, Second Uncle Yun Zhe, Fourth Uncle Chang Yi, her Grandmother Lei Zhu, and her playful mischievous mom…..
It wasn’t clear how much time passed but Xiao Yao smelled something burning and she looked over to see the Grand Emperor’s white robe had turned charred yellow and his lips were chapped like he hadn’t drank water for days. She hurriedly yelled “Dad!” She looked to Jing for help and saw his face bright red and he walked slowly like he was stepping on scalding lava.
Xiao Yao forgot about listening to the story and screamed “Dad! Stop going! If we keep going we’ll all die.”
The Grand Emperor looked back at Jing “Can you keep going?”
Jing forced a smile but couldn’t talk so nodded. A little white astral fox appeared and perched on Jing’s shoulder and he looked less pained.
The Grand Emperor continued while Xiao Yao was horrified “Dad, it’ll only get hotter as we go deeper inside.”
The Grand Emperor appeared not to hear her and held her hand tightly and continued to tell Xiao Yao his story with Ah Heng while pulling her swiftly behind him.
It was unending desert before them and because it was so hot even the blue sky was gone and instead turned all red giving the world around them the feel of eerie desolation.
The fox on Jing’s shoulder got smaller and smaller until it vanished and Jing spit up blood and his leg caught on fire. The Grand Emperor grabbed Jing and the fire was extinguished.
The Grand Emperor grabbed Xiao Yao on one hand and Jing on the other and continued forward. Xiao Yao saw his robe burn up while his arm was like a dried desert cracking open until blood seeped out and stained his robe.
Xiao Yao cried “Dad, you’re the head of a kingdom, how can you leave your citizens behind and die here?”
The Grand Emperor’s step halted for a moment before he continued to rush forward. Xiao Yao saw his hand was shriveled and blackened with only bone and no flesh or blood left and she screamed “Dad, Dad, please stop, I beg you please stop……..”
The Grand Emperor kept going and Xiao Yao raged “You’re not even my dad and I’ve no connection with you so you let me go, you have no right to hold me, let me go…..”
The Grand Emperor’s steps were slow and his powers could barely sustain him but he held on tightly to Xiao Yao and Jing and kept going forward. His expression was no longer his usual calm expressionless visage and instead looked stricken and anxious like he was looking for a long lost beloved treasure.
At this point they couldn’t make it back out alive anymore so Xiao Yao gave up struggling and followed behind the Grand Emperor but having no clue what he could be looking for.
After some time the Grand Emperor finally collapsed on the ground and pulled Xiao Yao and Jing down with him. Jing regained some of his power and held onto Xiao Yao to keep her from being burned but the Grand Emperor’s leg was badly burned and was almost just a skeletal bone.
Xiao Yao took out her precious medicine but the moment it left the jar the elixir evaporated.
Xiao Yao railed at the sky “What is this godforsaken place!”
The Grand Emperor tried to get up but couldn’t and his eyes reflect his utter despair. He looked at the sky “Why? I just wanted to confirm whether she was really here? Why don’t you let me know if she’s really dead or alive?”
Jing suddenly yelled “Your majesty! Look! Look!” as he pointed to the left.
Under the red sky there was a perfect pristine peach blossom forest that was ethereal like a fairy realm and untouched by the heat.
Xiao Yao rubbed her eyes in disbelief that a peach blossom forest could be intact in the middle of a raging inferno wasteland. The Grand Emperor’s desolate expression regained a sliver of hope and he stood up with Jing’s help and the three of them rushed forward together towards the peach blossom forest.
When they entered the peach blossom forest both Jing and the Grand Emperor collapsed on the ground nearly dead but the low power Xiao Yao appeared completely fine standing there with only her hair and clothes a little bit singed.
Jing still felt it was burning hot but because this peach blossom forest had the water and wood powers so he could summon the wood powers to help him create a water maze to keep the heat out unlike in the desert where there was nothing around and he had to only use his own power to withstand the heat.
Jing hurriedly conjured up the water maze and was about to pull Xiao Yao inside when he saw her nonchalantly strolling around the peach blossom forest as if on a spring day hike.
Jing stared slack jawed, if he didn’t know she had low powers he would have thought she was one of the most powerful goddesses in the world.
Jing asked “Xiao Yao, are you not hot?”
“Hot? No! The moment I entered the peach blossom forest I felt cool like a spring day on Sheng Nong Mountain.” As Xiao Yao spoke the peach blossom petals fell around her like falling snow and enveloped her in an embrace. Xiao Yao couldn’t help but reach out her hand to catch the petals.
Was he being strangely affected? Jing glanced over at the Grand Emperor and saw him sitting in a water maze he constructed and it was clear he also felt the burning heat. But he didn’t seem confused about Xiao Yao’s odd reaction and merely silently watched her with joy and sorrow in his eyes.
Xiao Yao asked “You two want to stay here and heal your injuries first? After you heal then we continue on?”
Jing grimaced. Heal? He was only barely able to stay alive.
The Grand Emperor smiled “Xiao Yao, we’re not healing, this place isn’t any less hot than in the barren desert.”
“But I don’t feel any of that.” Xiao Yao looked confused “The peach blossoms here are growing so beautifully, even more beautifully than on Sheng Nong Mountain.”
The Grand Emperor stared at the peach blossom forest and said nothing but his eyes was filled with abject sadness.
Jing looked around and carefully observed the peach blossom forest which was itself the most powerful spiritual maze in the world. Jing couldn’t help but be utterly impressed with whomever constructed the maze. The strange peach blossoms grew in the barren wasteland to create an oasis of life and helped to seal the monster’s terrifying power. But what was strange was the maze appeared to also be protecting the monster. If Jing headed deeper inside then the peach blossoms would not let him collect its water power and would instead shoot to kill him.”
Jing tried to test out his theory and walked deeper into the forest and he was right because the water power pulled back as a warning. Jing took a few more steps and the peach blossom forest was infuriated and thousands of peach blossom petals turned into the sharpest blades and flew towards him. Xiao Yao was terrified and flew towards Jing to push him down on the ground.
The petals turned back into soft fronds right before it struck Xiao Yao and landed softly on top of her and Jing.
Jing suddenly realized the petals only started falling after they entered the peach blossom forest and it wasn’t because he activated the maze but it was falling solely because of Xiao Yao.
Jing also realized why Xiao Yao didn’t feel the heat and said to the Grand Emperor “Your majesty, the peach blossom forest is…..protecting Xiao Yao.” Just like in the desert when the Grand Emperor used his spiritual power to protect Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao was perplexed “Dad, what is this place?”
The Grand Emperor said “Xiao Yao, I think……your mom is still alive.”
Xiao Yao stared at him and he repeated “Your mom is still alive.”
The world was as silent as if it ended. Xiao Yao’s heart sank to the depths of the world’s lowest point and she couldn’t breath. She heard the sound of petals falling on her and her own voice sounding like it was from far away “What did you say?”
“Your mom is still alive.”
Xiao Yao could hear her thundering heart but didn’t know if it was happiness, sadness, or rage? She calmly wondered why she should be angry, shouldn’t she just be happy? But she heard herself scream “I don’t believe it! If she was alive when why didn’t she come back to pick me up? You’re lying! You’re lying!………”
The Grand Emperor sadly stared at her.
Xiao Yao believed that her mom was still alive but wished she was really dead so that she had a reason to forgive her.
“If she was alive then why didn’t she pick me up? Why did she abandon me? Does she know how I grew up? I was called a bastard spawn, chased by people, I didn’t have a face, I fought with animals for scraps of food…..I was raised in a locked cage for thirty years no better than an animal! My hard earned powers was forcibly stripped from me and I was forced to eat the most horrific things…..Isn’t she my real mom? When I was being tortured and abused where was she? Did she give birth to me just so I could endure such abuse and torture……”
Xiao Yao thought she experienced all that and was cold and heartless enough to withstand it but some pain was merely locked away so now when the shell was forcibly peeled off she could still cry and hurt.
Xiao Yao headed out of the peach blossom forest with only one thought – to leave here immediately and forever!
Jing tried to stop her but he couldn’t move easily in the forest while she could.
“Xiao Yao, stop!” The Grand Emperor blocked her path.
Xiao Yao pushed him aside and ran towards the edge of the forest “I hate her, I hate her! From the day she abandoned me I had no mom anymore! I don’t care if she’s dead or alive, it has nothing to do with me! Whether she’s a hero or a whore also has nothing to do with me……”
SLAP! The Grand Emperor’s hard resounding slap landed on Xiao Yao’s cheek.
Xiao Yao’s cheek was red and throbbing in pain and she stared incredulously at the Grand Emperor. He never once said an angry word to her and even in the desert he would risk death to shield her first. But right now he struck her because of a woman who divorced him,
Xiao Yao angrily yelled “She divorced you hundreds of years ago, she doesn’t want you!”
“Your mom doesn’t want me but she never abandoned you! If it wasn’t for you then why would she need to survive in this not god, not human, not demon painful way? Look around here, do you think this is a place for anyone to live?”
Xiao Yao stared at the Grand Emperor where his two arms were shriveled up and his one leg was as dry as tinder. Even a supremely powerful god like the Grand Emperor could not last even a day in this place, yet her mom had been in here for hundreds of years.
Xiao Yao’s rage evaporated with only her despair burning her up inside. She whirled around and rushed towards the inner part of the peach blossom forest while yelling on the top of her lungs “Mom! Mom! Mom…..I’m here, I’m here, your Xiao Yao is here……”
The peach blossom petals blanketed the sky like the misty rain of the South in an unending torrent falling.
Xiao Yao kept calling out “Mom, Mom, Mom, I’m Xiao Yao……”
A figure in blue appeared in the midst of the peach blossom petal rain and Xiao Yao stopped in her tracks and stared at the sliver of blue in the sea of red.
With the peach blossom petal rain covering the landscape the figure was murky but she walked very hesitantly.
Finally she got close to Xiao Yao but with still a distance separating them she stopped and the peach blossom petals fell even more heavily. Her face was covered in the peach blossom petals and Xiao Yao couldn’t see her clearly at all.
Xiao Yao opened her mouth but her throat was dry and she couldn’t speak so Xiao Yao tried to walk forward but the petals gently but insistently pushed her back so she couldn’t move.
The Grand Emperor behind Xiao Yao asked “Ah Heng, is that you?”
After some time a scratchy voice answered, a voice that sounded like her vocal cords had been burned “Shao Hao?”
“It’s me!” The Grand Emperor’s voice was shaking.
“You’ve grown old.”
The Grand Emperor wanted to laugh but couldn’t “You…..have you been well?”
Very calm, very nonchalant, the two of them conversed as if they merely ran into each other on the streets in the misty rain, with the hundreds of years behind them but still two close friends who could candidly ask each other’s well being.
The Grand Emperor said “I brought Xiao Yao to see you.”
The figure in blue silently stood there and it wasn’t clear what her expression was but the petals flew around her as if clouds were converging and parting in an ever changing pattern.
Xiao Yao pushed aside the thick petals and desperately tried to walk forward but the figure in blue appeared startled and immediately moved back “Don’t! Don’t come close!”
Xiao Yao yelled “Why can’t I go over? I want to go over, I’m going to go over! Why do you have to hide in the peach blossom petals, make it go away!”
“Xiao Yao, be obedient!
Xiao Yao often heard that when she was a child “Xiao Yao, be obedient!” When she was naughty her mom would say that. When she wanted to eat snacks and not eat dinner her mom would say that, when she wouldn’t listen to Zhuan Xu gege her mom would say that…..but back then her mom’s voice was gentle and melodic, not scratchy and rough like now.
Xiao Yao’s tears fell but she didn’t rebel against her mom like she did as a child and really was obedient and stopped trying to walk closer. But she was still stubborn like a child and asked “Why can’t I go over?”
“I have the power of the sun’s fire inside of me. It can burn up lush green land and endless forests and turn it into an unending desert. If you come too close it will burn you.”
Xiao Yao was shocked “You…..you are the drought monster?”
“The world calls me the drought monster? Then I am.”
Xiao Yao asked “Have you been living here this entire time?”
“You didn’t come pick me up, not because you didn’t want to, but because you can’t, right?” The truth was right in front of her eyes but Xiao Yao still needed to ask because she was waiting for this answer for her entire life.
The blue shadow appeared to understand Xiao Yao’s pain and reached out her hand and walked forward a few steps but immediately pulled back “I have the sun’s fire inside me so wherever I go it will be destroyed so I cannot leave here. I can only wait here for you. I’ve waited four hundred years to tell you in person that Mom is so very sorry to you. Xiao Yao, in my entire life I did not let down my kingdom or my people, but the only two people I let down was your dad and you. Mom is so very sorry to you…….”
After four hundred years Xiao Yao finally got the answer she needed, the answer she never imagined she would ever get in her entire life.
In that moment Xiao Yao released all her anguish and bitterness as her tears fell and she knelt to the ground “Mom!”
The blue shadow shook and almost bent low but the peach blossom petals around her surrounded her tightly as if comforting her and sharing in her sorrow.
Xiao Yao cried “Mom, have you been alone here for the last four hundred years?”
“Not alone, your daddy has been with me.”
Xiao Yao looked back at the Grand Emperor and then realized it wasn’t that dad but…..Xiao Yao quickly asked “Qi Yo is also still alive?”
Ah Heng knew Xiao Yao’s emotional knot over this issue so didn’t get angry with Xiao Yao calling her dad by his name but also didn’t answer her question. She asked “Who is the young man behind you?”
Xiao Yao turned around and her heart fluttered in nervous sweetness as if she was on a secret date with her boyfriend and her parents caught them.
The Grand Emperor answered “His name is Tu Shan Jing, the Qing Qiu Tu Shan clan’s current clan leader.”
Jing knelt to the ground to bow his head low “Greetings to the Princess.”
Ah Heng raised her hand “No need for such formality, you are the clan leader.”
The Grand Emperor explained “He wants your most precious thing, of course he’ll be like this.”
Ah Heng looked at Jing bowing on the ground behind Xiao Yao with no intention of getting up and understood everything. She felt conflicted and couldn’t speak for some time.
Jing and Xiao Yao nervously remained kneeling until Xiao Yao couldn’t help but call out “Mom?”
Ah Heng appeared to snap out of it and asked “Is he good to you?”
Xiao Yao said “Yes, very good.”
Ah Heng added “No one treats you even better? Why does it have to be him?”
Xiao Yao said “Because only him, no matter what happens, he will never leave me.”
Ah Heng appeared to chuckle before she called “Jing!”
“Please take care of Xiao Yao.”
Was that her stamp of approval for him? Jing immediately bowed three times and joyfully replied “I will definitely do that.”
Ah Heng asked “Where is Zhuan Xu? Where is he now?”
Xiao Yao said “Zhuan Xu is now the Emperor of Xuan Yuan and lives on Sheng Nong Mountain.”
Ah Heng was silent and then asked “When did your Grandfather pass away?”
“Grandfather is still alive.” Xiao Yao vividly explained how the Yellow Emperor dramatically abdicated the throne to Zhuan Xu and then shared how both men were doing now.
Ah Heng asked “Has Zhuan Xu taken a wife?”
Because she already spoke for so long, Xiao Yao was back to being animated again and she laughed “Mom, you’ll never believe this even in your dreams! You should ask how many wives he has rather than if he has a wife.” Xiao Yao sat cross-legged and used her fingers to count for her mom “He has the Sheng Nong clan, and in the Middle Plains he has the Tan family, the Ji family, the Gong family, and in the North he has the Wan Mei family, the Li Jie family, and in the West he has the Heng Sa family, the Xiao Yue family, and ……oh! There are too many that I can’t even remember them all!”
Ah Heng softly sighed, happy to know that Zhuan Xu was safe and well but also dismayed shock “He’s nothing like Fourth brother and Fourth sister-in-law.”
Xiao Yao looked at the Grand Emperor since only he knew her Fourth Uncle like her mom did and could share in her opinion. The Grand Emperor said “Zhuan Xu looks a lot like Chang Yi, but his personality is like Qing Yang. And a little bit like me. But he’s more capable than Qing Yang and myself, he has the best from both of us.”
Ah Heng said “Thank you for taking care of and teaching Zhuan Xu.”
The Grand Emperor’s voice was pained “You know….that’s not necessary. It’s what I owe to Qing Yang and Chang Yi, and also to you.”
Xiao Yao said “Mom, my medical skills are very strong now and I can find a way to heal you. After Mom is healed then you can see Zhuan Xu.” She eagerly asked “Where is Qi Yo? Didn’t Mom say he has been with you? Why doesn’t he come out to see me?”
Ah Heng gently said “From the moment you stepped inside the peach blossom forest, your daddy has been keeping you company.”
Xiao Yao looked around “Where? How come I can’t see him?”
Ah Heng saw Jing still kneeling there and called him to stand up before saying to the Grand Emperor “Shao Hao, I want to talk to Xiao Yao alone.”
The Grand Emperor led Jing to the side where they couldn’t hear the conversation anymore.
Ah Heng warmly said “Xiao Yao, do you want to know how I met your daddy?”
Xiao Yao nodded and remembered her mom couldn’t see her through the peach blossom petals so added “I want to know.”
“I was the littlest daughter of the Xuan Yuan Yellow Emperor and I had three full blood older brothers above me. But sadly my second brother Yun Zhe died before I was born and my eldest brother Qing Yang was always very strict with me. My mom and my fourth brother Chang Yi coddled and pampered me. When I was small I loved to play so I often snuck down the mountain and my mom didn’t try to control me. I took my mom’s maiden last name and called myself Xi Ling Heng and wandered the vast wilderness. One summer evening when the sun was setting in the sky, I was on my way to Buo Fu nation when I met a man wearing a red robe………”
In her mom’s story Xiao Yao became the young girl Ah Heng and lived through her happiness and sorrows with Qi Yo.
That man called Qi Yo gradually aligned with Xiao Yao’s childhood memories of him and was no longer a stranger to her.
When Ah Heng and Qi Yo made the promise to each other under the peach blossom tree in the Jiu Li tribe to meet every year there, Xiao Yao was so happy for them but also so worried.
When Ah Heng heard that the Yellow Emperor wanted her to marry her fiancee Shao Hao, she injured her eldest brother Qing Yang to escape Xuan Yuan Mountain and ran to Jiu Li to wait all night under the peach blossom tree. But that night the Sheng Nong Flame Emperor died and Qi Yo couldn’t come because the entire Sheng Nong Mountain was under lockdown and he broke their promise. Xiao Yao was so anxious for them.
When Ah Heng decided to marry Shao Hao for the sake of her mom and brother, Qi Yo came to disrupt the wedding ceremony. On the bird bridge Qi Yo tried to take Ah Heng away but his power was no match for Shao Yao who sent him flying into the water. Xiao Yao cried for them.
When Ah Heng and Shao Hao agreed to only have a marriage alliance in name but not be husband-wife in reality, Xiao Yao was happy for Qi Yo but also sad for Shao Hao because he didn’t know then that he would live to regret this decision for the rest of his life.
Xiao Yao’s tears fell like a downpour as she listened to her eldest uncle’s death, her fourth uncle’s death, Qi Yo’s anguish, her mom’s despair…..
In the end Xiao Yao’s eyes were swollen red from crying but Ah Heng’s voice remained very calm and peaceful “Behind him was Sheng Nong and behind me was Xuan Yuan. He – could never forsake Sheng Nong. I – could never betray Xuan Yuan. So in the end we could only battle to the death on the field. I’m sorry Xiao Yao, Mom lied to you. When I said goodbye to you on Jade Mountain I was already certain I was heading to my death.”
“Then….what about Daddy?”
Ah Heng said “I never asked him but he likely wasn’t. He was too brashly arrogant and would never go anywhere anticipating death. But in the end, he died and I lived.”
Xiao Yao anxiously asked “But Mom you said you weren’t alone these past four hundred years and Daddy has been with you?”
“To save Xuan Yuan I summoned forth the sun’s fire power that was hidden in my body but the power was too strong that even a goddess couldn’t control it so I lost my consciousness and became a killing demon. I was destroying everything when your daddy saved me by using his own heart to replace my heart that was destroyed by the sun’s fire power. I promised him “the vines entwine the tree even if it’s dead, the tree remains with the vines even if it dies” and I wanted to die with him but he asked me to stay alive. He said “I never had parents and I don’t want my daughter also to have no parents. Since Xiao Yao was born I never once did my duty as a father so the only thing I can do for her to is keep her mother alive for her so that she can only day know what kind of people her parents were so that she doesn’t need to live her life in shame.”
Ah Heng touched the peach blossom tree “Xiao Yao, your daddy never ever did anything in his entire life that he needed to apologize or feel ashamed about. He never let down the Sheng Nong tribe or the Flame Emperor that he owed a debt of gratitude to. The only thing he regretted when he died was you, his only regret was that he was never able to hear you call him daddy! He asked me “Tell Xiao Yao that I loved her very much, tell her that her mom and dad didn’t do anything wrong and she should never feel ashamed about us.”
Xiao Yao’s tears fell and she was in such pain she couldn’t talk.
Ah Heng touched her chest with one hand and pointed to the peach blossom forest with her other hand “Your daddy’s heart is inside my body and your daddy’s body transformed into the peach blossom forest. Xiao Yao, he’s been with me this entire time as we waited for you to come.”
Xiao Yao looked up at the peach blossom petals falling around her, caressing her cheeks and twining around her body, so tender, so affectionate, just like a dad’s embrace.
Xiao Yao’s tears poured forth and she yelled “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy….I’m your daughter Xiao Yao. Do you hear that? Daddy! Daddy……..”
Her heartwrenching screams reverberated around the forest and a gust of wine appeared to rise as the petals danced around her.
Xiao Yao cried to her mom “Mom, do you think Daddy heard me?”
Ah Heng touched her head and smiled “Xiao Yao, Mom needs to go now.”
“Go? No, no, Mom, you come back with me and I’ll heal you……”
Ah Heng walked towards Xiao Yao and her features were finally revealed.
In the red light Xiao Yao saw her mom and she didn’t have a single strand of hair on her head and her features were dried and shriveled, frightening and ugly beyond belief.
Ah Heng also finally saw Xiao Yao clearly and smiled “Your eyes are exactly like your daddy! Your daddy was right, when I finally saw you all the pain would be worth it! Xiao Yao, Mom knows you don’t want me to go but Mom really is so very tired. Now that you’re all grown up and have a lover to take care of you and Zhuan Xu to look after you, Mom can finally leave to be reunited with your daddy.”
Xiao Yao’s heart was like a knife cutting through but she knew death was the best release for her mom. Her mom already lived in this godforsaken state for the last four hundred years to wait for her.
Ah Heng walked up to Xiao Yao and in the falling petals she reached out and pulled Xiao Yao into her arms for an embrace.
To let his wife and daughter finally reunite, the peach blossom forest disappeared. An embrace right before death was so solemn and comforting as Ah Heng cried “Qi Yo, Xiao Yao, our family is finally together!”
Ah Heng’s body gradually vanished and Xiao Yao tried to hold onto her “Mom! Mom…..” but it was like trying to catch falling sand.
Ah Heng smiled and kissed Xiao Yao on the peach blossom birthmark on her forehead and Xiao Yao watched as her mom turned into a beautiful blue light that joined the red peach blossom petals dancing around.
In the haze Xiao Yao saw her daddy wearing a red robe standing beside her mom dressed in blue. Her daddy was still the proud and powerful warrior in her memory and her mom was back being her beautiful vibrant old self. The two of them were standing side by side in embrace while smiling at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao ran towards them reaching out her hand wanting to hold onto them “Daddy! Mom! Daddy, Mom, don’t leave me…….”
Her parents gradually disappeared as the peach blossom petals melted and everything vanished. There was no burning desert, no peach blossom forest, no red flaming sky.
Xiao Yao stood there in a daze for the longest time before she turned back around “My daddy and my mom are gone.”
The Grand Emperor’s hair had turned all white and he had tears in his eyes.
Xiao Yao looked up at the sudden clap of thunder and the sky tore open in a torrential downpour. In a split second everyone’s face was sopping wet.
Once Promised- Qi Yo and Ah Heng’s Ending:
“Ah Heng.” Shao Hao could say nothing more but he held onto Ah Heng and wouldn’t let go.
Ah Heng took out a blood stained handkerchief “You copied my writing and wrote this note asking Qi Yo to go to Ju Mountain to save my Fourth Brother, right?”
Shao Hao saw the blood and glanced at Ah Heng’s missing finger and his body shuddered slightly.
Ah Heng saw that he didn’t deny it and smiled “Thank you. Actually…I don’t hate you anymore. You aren’t our Eldest Brother so asking you to save my Fourth Brother was asking too much to begin with.”
“I promised to take good care of you and Chang Yi and it was I who didn’t fulfill my promise to Qing Yang. If you hate and loathe me, that’s only to be expected.”
Ah Heng softly sighed “When we were young we all thought we could just be ourselves and do what we wanted to do. It was later that we realized that we couldn’t break free of the chains of family and birth. You are Gao Xing Shao Hao, you can’t go save someone even if you wanted to. I am Xuan Yuan Ba, I have to kill people even when I don’t want to. Some things we want to do but can’t, other things we don’t want to do but are forced to. Even I’m in this position, much less you as the ruler of a nation. There are even more things you can’t do or are forced to do.”
Shao Hao was praying for Ah Heng’s understanding and now that this moment arrived and she understood the dilemma he faced, he didn’t feel comforted. Instead he felt this overbearing sadness. Both he and Qing Yang wanted to protect and shield Ah Heng, not wanting her to become like them. But in the end Ah Heng became just like them. If Qing Yang was still alive and saw Ah Heng standing here wearing her battle armor with her sword in hand as she commanded thousands of attacking troops, his heart would break.
Their destiny was to keep the world safe, but they couldn’t even keep their closest loved ones safe!
There was heavy exhaustion in Ah Heng’s eyes as she stared down at Shao Hao’s hand on her arm “Let go. I don’t hate you anymore but we can’t go back to the way it was. Because I now truly understand you, that’s also why I’m certain that we can’t even be friends. You are Gao Xing Shao Hao and I am Xuan Yuan Ba!”
Shao Hao’s heart was ice cold as his body felt powerless and his hand slacked.
Ah Heng lifted the curtains and walked out.
That night as all the troops were asleep, Ah Heng took Ah Bi out to survey the geography. She saw in the desolation a peach blossom tree blooming in an empty courtyard and realized that it was peach blossom season again and she didn’t even realize it. Yi Province wasn’t far from Jiu Li so she said to Ah Bi “Let’s go to Jiu Li!”
The entire tribe seemed empty with only a few nicely dressed young ladies but no one was attending the peach blossom festival as they sat quietly outside their homes.
Ah Heng walked into the valley and saw the blooming peach blossoms but there were no young men singing songs to the young women. Where did everyone go? A soft singing reached Ah Heng and she followed the voice to see a white haired old woman humming a tune under the peach blossom tree.
The old woman asked “You’re an outsider, right? Are you here for our peach blossom festival? Come back in a few years, all the men have gone to war and they will be back in a few years.”
Ah Heng asked “How long have you been waiting for your lover?”
Ah Heng was silent, the dead bodies turned into white bones in the battlefield remained lovers to the women waiting for their return. Day in and day out, the corpses turned to dust on the field as the women’s hair turned white waiting for their return.
The woman saw Ah Heng staring at her with pity and yelled “He will be back! He will be back……” Her voice gradually got smaller “The war will end, the war will end! The Sheng Nong and Xuan Yuan war will end and then he will be back………”
Ah Heng’s heart broke, this desolation was caused by them! The common folks didn’t care who won, they just wanted the war to end as soon as possible so they could resume their ordinary happy life.
She made a solemn vow to the old woman “Yes, the war will end.”
Ah Heng walked away through the peach blossom forest and into the back hill where a white altar stood in the center. She walked up to the altar and saw an animal bone wind chime laying on the ground. She hung it back up on the pole and the wind blew a melody from the chime.
On Jade Mountain, in those lonely sixty years, she spent it accompanied by the sound of the wind chimes. She clearly already fell in love with him but refused to admit it. She left him in Qi Yo fort and moved to the nearby De Wa fort but clearly still worried about him but forced herself not to acknowledge it…….
Ding dong, ding dong…..
The sound remained as clear as ever but in the blink of an eye it had been hundreds of years. She was still as young and radiant in looks but her heart was old and weary.
Ah Heng turned to leave when suddenly everything stopped.
In the falling peach blossom there stood Qi Yo dressed in all red, quietly waiting for her like an unmovable mountain. It was like that back then, it is like that now, and it would forever be like that.
Qi Yo broke into a beaming smile and extended his hand to her. Ah Heng smiled back and rushed off the altar like a butterfly traversing through the petals into Qi Yo’s arms.
They held hands and smiled into each others eyes.
The entire sky full of stars could not match the aura of their smiles.
Qi Yo held Ah Heng’s hand and they walked through the peach blossoms back to their bamboo residence.
The residence was kept neat and tidy inside and out with the courtyard filled with tended flowers of various colors. Opening the door, they walked inside and Ah Heng stared at Qi Yo as her throat constricted. Their home, he kept it so well tended.
Qi Yo smiled at her before he pulled her in for an embrace and kissed her on the forehead.
They sat down facing each other and shared a jug of wine, just like hundreds of years ago. Neither said a word, as if even speaking would be wasting their time together. Neither took their eyes off each other as if even a blink would make everything disappear.
Ah Heng started to undress Qi Yo who smiled and complied before he moved her to bed and slowly undressed her. He poured wine down her body and his lips followed the trail. In the small residence there was no Sheng Nong or Xuan Yuan, just a man and a woman who loved each other sharing the most primal of pleasures and the most passionate happiness.
Both of them woke up at the same time in the middle of the night.
The moonlight trickled in through the window and Ah Heng stared greedily at Qi Yo’s face before tracing it slowly as if to etch it into her memory.
Qi Yo smiled and stared at her until tears came to her eyes. He pulled her into his arms as she traced a line of words on his chest “The entwisted tree will entwine in life and in death.”
Qi Yo initially didn’t realize Ah Heng was writing on his chest and after he realized it then he could feel that she was writing the same words over and over. Qi Yo grabbed her hand and brought it to his lip for a kiss with their fingers entwined.
Ah Heng stared at Qi Yo who smiled back and their bodies were once again entwined as if trying to become one forever with such fervor and desperation. Finally both were exhausted but still loath to part as they embraced tightly.
Qi Yo softly asked “Where is our daughter? Is she safe? You know there are too many people in this world who hate me.” This was the first time Qi Yo seemed worried about his enemies.
“On Jade Mountain, with the Royal Mother protecting her. And Lie Yang keeping watch over her.”
Qi Yo was reassured “That’s good.”
The moonlight shone on the wall and a small red light reflected. Ah Heng asked “What is that?”
Qi Yo lifted his arm and the small bow hanging on the wall flew into his hand. The red light vanished and the bow become the size of his palm. It was the Ancient Pan Gu Bow, a priceless treasure that Qi Yo hung casually on the wall.
Ah Heng laughed “You still haven’t tossed this away?”
Qi Yo picked up the bow and stared at it under the moonlight “I tried to pull it many times but it never responded. But I can feel that this isn’t a useless item, I simply haven’t divined exactly how it’s used and what it’s meant for.”
Ah Heng heard the legend of the Ancient Bow when she lived on Jade Mountain and it was stored there. Legend had it that the first Emperor Pan Gu created the bow to find the woman he loved. But it wasn’t clear why Pan Gu never once used it or why he designated it as the number one weapon in the ranking of all godly weapons.
Ah Heng took the bow from Qi Yo and noticed there was writing on it that was too small to read. Then the bow grew bigger and both Qi Yo and Ah Heng stared at the squiggly lines written in ancient language.
“This is ancient language that has passed from usage and is only used now as chants for praying to the Heavens. Fourth Brother was interested in ancient artifacts and language so I can read a little of it.”
Qi Yo got curious “What does this say?”
Ah Heng sprawled on Qi Yo’s chest and stared at each character for a long time before saying “My heart for your heart.”
The characters were clear and Qi Yo grew silent in thought.
Ah Heng tossed the bow aside “The Ancient Bow may have been forged by Pan Gu but the idea of a weapon keeping lovers together in life or death is ludicrous.”
Qi Yo laughed “Whether the Ancient Bow is real or fake, these characters are real. If a heart can be traded for another heart then Pan Gu would not have lost the woman he loved.”
In their laughter and chatter morning dawned.
No matter how loath to part, the night was now over. Ah Heng got up to dress. Qi Yo said nothing and silently watched her.
As Ah Heng turned to the front door, she suddenly looked back “You have Sheng Nong behind you, the brothers in arms fighting to the death for you. You have the Flame Emperor and Yu Wang. Behind me is Xuan Yuan, all those orphans and widows, my brothers and nephews. I will give it my all so don’t go easy on me, that will only make me hate myself more.”
“You know I won’t.” Qi Yo sat up with his red robe hanging from the waist and his hair of black and white falling behind him. There was stark pain in his eyes but his smile was still as fearless as ever.
At dawn it was Uncle Wind’s turn to survey the troops but Teacher Rain asked to go along, and even dragged Qi Yo’s four lieutenants Chi, Mei, Wang, Liang along (魑魅魍魉).
At the top of the peak they saw Qi Yo and Xuan Yuan Ba returning on their winged rides. Qi Yo’s winged ride clearly could fly faster but he kept his distance right behind Xuan Yuan Ba. With Xuan Yuan Ba’s powers she couldn’t not know that Qi Yo was right behind her yet she didn’t react.
Right as they were about to reach the army base, Qi Yo suddenly sped up and flew alongside Xuan Yuan Ba. He pulled her in for a long hard kiss and she didn’t push him away and instead tightly embraced him back. A second later she released him and flew towards the Xuan Yuan barracks while Qi Yo turned towards Sheng Nong. That was enough as Chi, Mei, Wang, Liang and every one there watched in stunned silence.
Chi stuttered to Teacher Rain “Wha…..what just happened? If they hooked up then there’s no battle to be fought!”
Mei was the impetous one and immediately flew forward and blocked the path of Qi Yo and Xuan Yuan Ba. His face was bright red in anger and he railed at Qi Yo “I thought it was just a rumor, who knew it was true! No wonder neither side could etch out a victory all this time! How can you answer to everyone following you! How can you face the Sheng Nong soldiers who followed you to their deaths! How can you face Yu Wang who treated you as an equal with such love!”
Qi Yo’s personality was that the carrot worked better than the stick so he coldly scoffed back “Why do I need to answer to anyone of you guys? Whether I did right by them, who are you to judge?”
Coincidentally General Ying Long of the Xuan Yuan army got up early that morning and arrived at the same place to survey along with Shao Hao. He heard the commotion and rushed over just in time to hear Mei yelling.
Mei pointed at Xuan Yuan Ba as he yelled at Qi Yo “Are you having an affair with her?”
Ying Long interjected with anger “If you dare spout nonsense, I won’t let it go!”
“I’m not spouting nonsense, we all saw it with our own eyes. Just moments ago they were hugging and kissing, isn’t that right Teacher Rain?”
Ying Long stared at Shao Hao and remembered when the Princess divorced him. Ying Long had all these questions but didn’t dare ask right now. The Xuan Yuan army’s General Li Yuan quickly shouted “Princess, is what they are saying true? You and Qi Yo….really have something going on?”
All those other Sheng Nong troops arriving with Uncle Wind also got into it and everyone tossed questions at Qi Yo who didn’t say a single word and just quietly stared at Ah Heng. His eyes reflected his torment and hope, his scorn and longing.
Qi Yo wasn’t a gentleman but he was always open and upfront about whatever he did. Even when he was conquering a castle he did it with his head held high and never concealed his ruthlessness. So I conquered a castle, so what? So I’m ruthless to my enemies, so what? But only with his love for Ah Heng did he conceal it like a thief in the night.
Under the eyes of so many people, Ah Heng wanted to deny it many times but the look in Qi Yo’s eyes broke her heart. She already made him suffer and wait for hundreds of years, even now at this last moment she still couldn’t publicly acknowledge him? Qi Yo didn’t care about what the world thought of him, but he did live his life without a shred of fear or concealment.
In a split second Ah Heng made up her mind and honestly replied “I do have a relationship with Qi Yo.” Her voice wasn’t loud so everyone who heard it was in such shock they wondered if they heard it wrong. Even Qi Yo wondered if he heard it wrong to finally hear something he waited hundreds of years to hear.
“I’ve been in love with Qi Yo for the past hundreds of years!” Ah Heng said it again and louder this time as if she wanted to proclaim it to the entire world.
The two sides were tossed into stunned silence as if the world just turned upside down. Shao Hao worriedly stared at Ah Heng as things spun out of control. He had wanted to attack Qi Yo’s subordinates trust in Qi Yo so devised a way for Uncle Wind and them to chance upon Qi Yo and Ah Heng together. But he didn’t expect Ying Long to appear and drag Ah Heng down as well. Now with just one wrong move the entire Xuan Yuan army would refuse to listen to Ah Heng and even spit upon her.
Qi Yo started laughing loudly, a genuinely happy booming laugh.
Everyone stared at him until he stopped laughing but continued to stared lovingly at Ah Heng without hiding the affection in his yes. Wang tentatively asked “Great General, you…..you can’t have fallen for this Xuan Yuan witch, have you?”
Qi Yo was in such a good mood that he winked at Wang before retorting “If I didn’t fall for her, then should I have fallen for you?”
Mei and Chang were so upset they were nearly in tears “But she’s not a good woman. She doesn’t adhere to the womanly virtues, she married Shao Hao and then seduced our Great General. She’s ruthless and vicious and rumor has it she killed her own brother with her two hands. In the last few months, thousands of our troops have died in her hands.”
“So what? No matter what she’s like, as long as it’s her then I like everything about her.” Qi Yo never stopped staring at Ah Heng as he chuckled.
Shao Hao stood back in the crowd and stared at Qi Yo with such conflicted emotion.
Ah Heng blushed red and shot an angry glance at Qi Yo before turning to Ying Long and Li Yuan “I know you want me to explain and apologize but I don’t believe I did anything wrong. I don’t need your understanding and forgiveness. The only person I need to ask forgiveness from is Qi Yo. In the past hundreds of years, for my own mother, for my brothers, even for my daughter, I have sacrificed him time and time again. Three years ago when my mom passed she gave me permission to marry Qi Yo. I promised Qi Yo that I would be with him for my entire life. But I once again broke my promise, for my tribesman I not only didn’t go to him, I led you guys here to kill him. From the beginning until now I have fulfilled my duty as the Xuan Yuan Princess and never did a single thing wrong to Xuan Yuan. But I’ve wrong Qi Yo over and over again. If you guys believe me then I will continue to lead the troops. If not then I will immediately hand over authority to Ying Long.”
Ying Long kneeled immediately “Your subordinate I will follow Princess even to death.”
The rest of the Xuan Yuan troops present all followed Ying Long and got on their knees. Li Yuan said “If it wasn’t for Princess leading us until now, Xuan Yuan Castle would have fallen already.”
Shao Hao let out a relieved sigh at how Ah Heng used honesty to resolve a dangerous predicament. Sometimes people just want to know the truth.
Ah Heng stared at Chi, Mei, Wang, Liang “You guys have followed Qi Yo for the past hundreds of years. You know what he’s like and you’re still questioning him? if he wanted to sell you out then Xuan Yuan would have defeated Sheng Nong by now. He is willing to shoulder the bad reputation and for the entire world to hate him, did he do it for himself? It’s a shame he treated you guys like real brothers!” Her voice shook with her pride in Qi Yo and her desolation at their fate. Whether it was the Xuan Yuan or the Sheng Nong troops, everyone present felt the sadness and impossibility of life.
Chi, Mei, Wang, Liang all lowered their heads in shame.
Ah Heng stared at Qi Yo one final time before turning and leaving with her troops.
Qi Yo smiled broadly as he watched Ah Heng leave, finally he was able to stare at her in public with love as hot as the sun that no longer needed to be concealed.
Book 2, Chapter 19 – If Living then Will Return, If Death then Lost You Forever: (Final chapter)
Shao Hao’s heart thundered. He knew how deeply Ah Heng loved Qi Yo, yet she just gave the order to kill on sight and was so calm about it. Worry bubbled forth and he quickly asked “Are you sure? You know Qi Yo is like a mountain peak, either he stands proudly and strong or else he completely topples. He will never kneel down and surrender. Do you have the determination to kill Qi Yo? Once this battle starts there is no going back.”
“If the battle doesn’t start, is there another way to go?”
Shao Hao had no answer, for each day the Yellow Emperor was alive he would never give up his ambition to conquer the Middle Plains. And if Qi Yo was alive then he would never allow the Yellow Emperor to conquer Sheng Nong and destroy what Yu Wang built.
Shao Hao stood silently for a long time before asking in sorrow “Ah Heng, when you married me, that day both of us defiantly refused to become pawns and thought that if we held power in our hands then we could control our own destinies. But why is it that I’m now the ruler and you control an entire army, we still can’t do what we want?”
Ah Heng remembered that night when they laid under the tarp laughing and made a palm promise. That felt like ages ago now, but her coldness towards Shao Hao lessened and she warmly said “How can everything in life go as we want. The most important is that you’ve accomplished your biggest goal – you have become the Grand Emperor and can protect the earthly milky way.”
“In this entire world, you are the only person who knows each step I took to get here. You are also the only person I can get drunk with. Even if you hate me, I still want you to stay alive. I don’t want to make wine and have no one to drink with, to get drunk and no one to laugh with.”
The wind blew past them and both their eyes grew moist in the dust.
On Jade Mountain, Shao Hao arrived wearing all white on his winged ride, this god who had the aura of the streams and the mountains stunned everyone present with his commanding presence. But in the hundreds of years since, time had whittled away his water like warmth and left only his majestic peaks of coldness.
Ah Heng stared at Shao Hao, this man was more and more becoming a ruler. Even if he was loath to, he still coldly gave everything up and walked forward with certainty. Perhaps she will become the last person to see this side of him – Shao Hao. Perhaps in the future he will become like the Yellow Emperor, people only know him as a ruler who kills to conquer but forgot that he once had a warm and tender name – Shao Hao.
Qing Yang, Chang Yi, Chang Pu…….all those people who warmly called him by that name, they were buried like Shao Hao’s name.
But she and Qi Yo could not, neither of them could ever give up those who gave them warmth.
Ah Heng suddenly pointed towards Gao Xing “What’s over there?”
“Earth, mountains, streams, and people.”
Ah Heng pointed at Sheng Nong “What’s over there?”
“Earth, mountains, streams, and people.”
Ah Heng pointed at Xuan Yuan “What’s over there?”
“”Still earth, mountains, streams, and people.”
Ah Heng said “This world isn’t just Gao Xing, Xuan Yuan, and Sheng Nong. If you want to rule the entire world then you need to first have a heart that is capable of loving the entire world equally. Whether it’s Gao Xing, Xuan Yuan, and Sheng Nong, it’s all just earth, mountains, streams, and people.”
Shao Hao’s heart shook as thousands of years of godly class and national barriers fell in his heart and he saw a bigger, grander, better world. He bowed deeply to Ah Heng “You help me time and again but I don’t have the chance to fulfill my promise to you. Ah Heng, don’t let me become someone who breaks a promise.”
Ah Heng lowered her head “Everyone says Qi Yo is heartless but you’re the real heartless one. In your heart power comes first, when necessary you can throw away anyone and anything. I actually don’t have anything to ask of you and later let me be disappointed and also put you in a tough spot.”
Shao Hao’s heart hurt and he wanted to explain that she was wrong but everything she said was right: His father, his brothers, Chang Yi, Qing Yang, Nuo Nai, even Ah Heng, from family to friends, didn’t he forsake everyone of them?
Ah Heng smiled suddenly “But…if possible, please use your power and authority to protect Xiao Yao. That child may one day bring you the greatest shame in your life, and if you want please be mad at me, but never take it out on her!”
Shao Hao had tears in his eyes “You forget that after you were unconscious for a year after giving birth, who took care of her day and night? Every day after I left court, she would warmly run into my arms to greet me. She would use her little hands to wipe away the furrows in my brows. Only she would dare say that I looked awful with a poker face, only she would dare throw a temper tantrum at me. Xiao Yao is the only person on Five Gods Mountain who ever loved me unconditionally. She gave me so much happiness, I may not dare to make any other promise to you, but I will promise you that she will forever be my daughter!”
Ah Heng bowed deeply “Thank you” before turning and striding away.
[During the final battle, the two most power spiritual beings Qi Yo and Shao Hao engage in an one-on-one showdown using water power versus earth power and end up creating a massive flood that could not be redirected out of the Yi Province battlefield and threatened to drown all the Xuan Yuan soldiers on lower ground. To save her army, Ah Heng awakened the sun power inside of her and became a walking sun, using the heat to evaporate the flood. But she quickly loses control of the sun power and it ends up incinerating her body and turning her goddess spirit into a demon. It’s only up to Qi Yo to save her.]
Qi Yo did everything he possibly could already and had nothing to feel sorry about or regretful for. He lived up to the promise he made that day to the Flame Emperor and Yu Wang and he never let down the eighty-one brothers-in-arms who swore the blood oath with him that day to protect Sheng Nong. He didn’t owe himself or the world anymore so he was ready to let it all go.
Qi Yo walked towards Ah Heng. Her consciousness was being consumed by the sun power and her body could not endure the heat. She was a walking ball of heat with no consciousness left, only walking forward and burning up everything in her path.
Under the red peach blossom petals she thought she saw Qi Yo standing there, tall and proud waiting for her under the peach blossom tree!
She didn’t know where she was or what happened to her but she felt this happiness rise. It was like when they first met under the peach blossom tree, was this another year and another peach blossom festival again? Could they finally be together forever now?
Qi Yo smiled at her and reached out his hand towards her. She smiled and walked towards him but didn’t know why she was so tired, so tired as if she walked thousands of miles. Her heart hurt so much she just wanted to curl up in Qi Yo’s arm and go to sleep.
She smiled and reached out for Qi Yi, wanting to take his hand and finally hold onto her happiness.
But she saw in horror that the earth was splitting apart under Qi Yo’s feet and his skin was burning while his hand blackened and shriveled up like a bone.
“Ah Heng, don’t worry! Come here!” Qi Yo still smiled at her and reached out his hand.
She retreated in fear. It was her! It was actually her doing this. What did she turn into?
She touched herself and felt not a strand of hair on her hair. Her skin was blackened and split while there wasn’t a piece of whole flesh left on her body. She had become the world’s most frightening monster.
She curled inward and backed up while crying but no tears would come out because she was completely dried up. She had lost even the ability to cry.
“Ah Heng, do you still remember? I told you once that if you turn into a demon then I will become a demon with you!”
Qi Yo tried desperately to get closer to her but she kept running away.
Qi Yo plaintively cried out for her “Ah Heng, don’t run away from me! I’m not scared of you!”
But I’m scared, scared that a hideous monster like me would burn you up. Ah Heng kept longingly staring at Qi Yo while sadly backing away.
Qi Yo saw the pain Ah Heng was in and it was worse than a thousand knives cutting into his heart. They loved each other so much yet they couldn’t even get close to each other. Was there anything crueler than this in the entire world?
Ah Heng was gradually losing more and more of her lucidity as she burned even hotter. She turned and ran off while Qi Yo chased after her. Ah Heng ran and ran until she entered into a mountain area where she suddenly stopped.
A white altar, a green bamboo residence, and red peach blossom flowers…….the view around her felt so familiar that she didn’t want to leave. But she was burning this place up too and she moved to run away and keep this sanctuary intact.
Qi Yo called “Ah Heng, don’t worry and come to me” as he slashed his wrists and his blood that dripped into the soil protected Jiu Li from her heat.
All around them peach blossom trees bloomed bright red and Qi Yo laughed “Look! All the peach blossoms are growing so well and our home is safe.”
Ah Heng looked at Qi Yo and wanted to get close but another voice inside her head told her to stay away from him.
Qi Yo sadly stared at Ah Heng, desperately wanting to pull her into his embrace but knowing that even he could not get close to her. Before he could even reach her he would be incinerated by her heat.
Ah Heng’s body started to become transparent into a misty blue smoke. Qi Yo knew that the sun’s power was incinerating all life including Ah Heng’s body and her heart. Soon she would turn into ether and vanish.
Qi Yo raised his hand and the Ancient Pan Gu Bow flew into his palm from inside the bamboo residence and glowed a bright red.
“Ah Heng, do you remember this bow? I never told you that hundreds of years ago when I snuck into Jade Mountain to steal it, it wasn’t because I was brash and lawless, it was because my longing was impossible to control.”
Qi Yo stared at Ah Heng and slowly raised the Ancient Bow and pulled it back aiming at Ah Heng’s heart. The Ancient Bow did not have an arrow worthy of being used with it, the only arrow was the heart. With his ten fingers connected to his heart, Qi Yo put all his power into the pull to connect his heart with the bow.
He pulled the Ancient Bow all the way back and it appeared nothing was on it but it was dripping blood. As the Ancient Bow became more and more taunt, the blood dripped faster and faster. Qi Yo’s face was stark white in pain and his body shook uncontrollably like he was enduring the most excruciating of torture.
Finally the Ancient Bow was fully taunt and Qi Yo stared at Ah Heng before gently releasing it “Ah Heng, I won’t let you leave me again.”
The Ancient Bow released in a thunderous boom as a red light bathed the sky and all the peach blossoms shook.
Ah Heng cried out in pain as her heart felt like it was being ripped asunder and something forcefully shoved inside. She clutched her chest in pain as slowly the heat began to disperse.
Qi Yo painfully clutched his chest and sank to his knees but his head remained raised and staring intently at Ah Heng.
Gradually the incredible power force inside of her diminished and her eyes lost its red glow and she regained her consciousness.
In the rain of peach blossom petals, Qi Yo kneeled on the ground with one hand on his chest and one hand reaching out for Ah Heng as he tenderly called her “Ah Heng, come here.”
Ah Heng stared at him before stumbling forward and Qi Yo used all his strength to get up and stumble towards her. In the hundreds of miles of peach blossoms and under the petal rain, he and she were finally meeting under the peach blossom tree.
Qi Yo smiled and pulled Ah Heng into his arms tightly as she nestled in his embrace with a happy smile. Then she realized something was wrong and it wasn’t the same as before, she could heart his strong heartbeat but his chest was cold rather than burning hot with power like before.
Ah Heng looked up in horror at Qi Yo as he smiled down at her with all the love in his eyes. She gradually realized what he did, the Ancient Bow’s “my heart for your heart” was just that – he used his heart to exchange for her heart which had been destroyed by the sun’s power.
Qi Yo had no heart anymore……he was dying!
Ah Heng stared at Qi Yo and gradually a peaceful smile came to her, she was going to be entwined with him in life or in death. She clung onto him with a smile, they were finally together and it didn’t matter whether they lived or died. Just like this, together forever, never apart. Just like this, until the end of time.
Qi Yo clung onto her and weakly said “Remember what you said on Cao Yun Peak? You said that you wanted to see Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu grow up and see that she got married and he took a wife. Remember I promised that I would make your wish come true? If you leave now then you will forever come to regret it and never be able to stop worrying about Xiao Yao. Don’t you want to see our daughter grow up and get married? Don’t you want to know what kind of man she marries?”
Ah Heng tried to argue back but Qi Yo shushed her lips with a smile “I know I promised also that I will be with you every single day of you life.”
Ah Heng grabbed Qi Yo’s hand and nodded vigorously.
Qi Yo said “History is always written by the victors. When Xiao Yao grows up she will only hear that her real father is a lawless ruthless killing machine of a devil monster who seduced her mother. She might come to hate me with all her heart, and maybe hate you as well. Ah Heng, can you tell our daughter that I love her very much. Tell her that her parents never did anything they should be ashamed about. Tell her not to feel shame because of us. I don’t have parents so I don’t want our daughter to also have no parents. I never did a single day’s duty as her dad so this is the only thing I can do for her and that is to keep her mother alive. To give her the opportunity to learn the truth about who her mom and dad really were like. To let her never live her life in shame and resentment.”
The tears fell from Ah Heng’s eyes as she shook her head. No, she didn’t want to stay alive all alone!
Qi Yo tenderly added “I know it’s going to be very painful. But live on, for me and for our daughter! When the day arrives that you see our daughter all grown up, you will understand then why I made this choice today. You will feel then that all the pain was worth it. Can you promise me to live on?”
Ah Heng stared at Qi Yo and refused to promise. His body shook and he weakly implored “Ah Heng, promise me!”
Qi Yo was wild and fearless his entire life and she had never seen him beg for anything like he was doing right now. She could not deny him so reluctantly nodded her head.
Qi Yo held Ah heng’s hand and put it on her chest to hear the heart beat “I will forever be by your side and will wait for you to come find me. To tell me directly that our daughter is living a very happy life. You need to ask her to call out to the Heavens “Daddy!” so that I can hear it clearly. I’ve never heard her call me daddy……..” Qi Yo’s entire body went slack in Ah Heng’s arms “I wonder what her voice will sound like when she calls me daddy, probably the most beautiful sound in the entire world……..”
“Let’s go find Xiao Yao right so so you can hear her call you daddy.” Ah Heng hurriedly got up and carried Qi Yo on her back.
Qi Yo’s soft chuckle reached her ear as he kissed her softly on the back of her head “Silly Ah Heng, silly Ah Heng, my silly little Ah Heng…..”
Ah Heng didn’t understand what he was laughing about until she suddenly remembered. On Buo Fu Mountain she carried him just like this on her back, and he totally took advantage of her.
Qi Yo continued “You’re so silly and so easily tricked. I really don’t feel at ease leaving you all alone. Just remember to never trust anyone easily in the future…….” Qi Yo’s voice grew weaker and weaker.
Ah Heng cried out “Qi Yo, Qi Yo, please hold on. I’m taking you to see our daughter right now. You still haven’t heard her call you daddy.”
Qi Yo weakly murmured “Okay, I’ll hold on….” as his eyes closed.
Ah Heng tried to be cheerful and chatty “I’m not silly in the least. You’re so sneaky and think all along that you tricked me? But you never knew that I had a secret I never told you. You’re the one who was actually tricked, not me. Remember our first meeting? Not the meeting I don’t know about, but the real first meeting……”
Qi Yo wanted to tell Ah Heng that he remembered, he remembered every tiny detail about her and imprinted it in his heart. But he used all his strength and didn’t hear his voice speak up. Only Ah Heng’s voice as it gradually got softer and softer.
“It was sunset with the dusk was red rimmed, and you were standing in the desolate mountainside……”
The first time she met Qi Yo it was a red rimmed dusk. He wore all red and his black hair was not tied back as it blew in the wind around him like a wild being. He stood tall and proud in the wilderness staring into the distance. She couldn’t see his face clearly, only his black hair blowing around him giving him a commanding aura of unfettered arrogance.
His form appeared to be stepping on the entire world under his one foot. It was so powerful that Ah Heng was unconsciously attracted to him and walked towards him.
The second he turned around and met her eyes, there was so much emotion contained within and such intensity. She didn’t understand exactly what was going on but she knew her heart skipped a beat for him.
She knew exactly the way to Buo Fu Castle but she couldn’t help herself and walked up to him to ask “Excuse me sir, can you tell me the way to Buo Fu Castle?” And with that they started their ridiculous and frustrating journey together to Buo Fu Castle.
It wasn’t until many years later that she finally knew what all the intense emotions in Qi Yo’s eyes were conveying. What she thought was their first meeting was actually a reunion to Qi Yo, a reunion after a hundred years and it wasn’t the way he would have wanted it.
If she didn’t approach him then they would have passed each other by. He would be his Sheng Nong Great General. She would be her Gao Xing Empress.
He always thought it was his doing that turned a chance encounter into a lifetime’s fate. He will never know that it was actually she who kept him in her life that first night.
If she could do it all over again, Ah Heng didn’t know if she could ask again “Excuse me sir, can you tell me the way to Buo Fu Castle?”
“Qi Yo, do you think I should have asked?”
The person on her back didn’t answer her as his arms laid slack around her. Ah Heng’s tears tumbled down but she kept pretending everything was fine as she injected power into his body. “I know you’re laughing at me again! Don’t laugh at me! If you mock me then I’ll toss you over the cliff! I’ll tell you another funny thing, Xiao Yao that little brat doesn’t have much ability but one thing is just like you. She’s totally unreasonable and bossy, one time I took her…….”
In the teary haze she didn’t know where she was walking to and only continued to walk forward until she tripped over a bloody corpse and found herself standing at the edge of the decimated battlefield.
The Yellow Emperor finally conquered Sheng Nong and the people of the two kingdoms could live in peace going forward!
Ah Heng stared into the distance at the red dusky light in the sky and realized it wasn’t the sunset glow but was Sheng Nong Yun Xang’s life as she died and became the smoke burning into the Heavens. The smoky streaks was like her beautiful smile as she bid farewell.
They grew up together and spent all the time on Cao Yun Peak as close as two real sisters. They shared their secrets and worries and when their mothers got sick and died they both did their filial mourning together in support.
Ah Heng’s tears fell even harder and she really wanted to close her eyes and lock all the blood and death out. But she couldn’t do it. Qi Yo laid by her side with an arrogant smile at the corner of his lips, still forever proud and forthright. He looked so alive she felt he would suddenly jump up to surprise her before pulling her into his arms.
Ah Heng stroked his cheeks “Qi Yo, Qi Yo.”
Never again, he would never again open his eyes and call her “Ah Heng” with his chuckle.
Ah Heng cradled Qi Yo in her arms and screamed her pain. Qi Yo, why make me stay alive all alone to endure all of this. Now she wasn’t a goddess, wasn’t a demon, wasn’t a human, wasn’t a monster, she was a freak with nowhere to go.
Everyone died and I’m the only one alive, forced to carry such painful memories. I don’t think I can bear it long enough to see our daughter grow up. I want to come find you now.
The heart inside of her appeared to feel her sorrow and started to beat wildly. Qi Yo’s body started to vanish into a fog and transformed into a peach blossom forest surrounding Ah Heng.
Qi Yo, what are you trying to tell me?
Ah Heng closed her eyes and touched her chest and reached out her other hand. The falling peach blossom petals were like warm caresses as his heart beat warming inside of her. Ah Heng suddenly opened her eyes – you’re here, you’re really here forever by my side!
She murmured “I understand, no matter how painful I will stay alive. For everyone who died, for Xiao Yao, and for you. I want to tell Xiao Yao myself how her daddy was the greatest hero the world never knew it had.”
The earth churned around her as all the corpses were pulled into the ground and more and more peach blossom trees sprouted up around her. Ah Heng got up and turned towards the forest, Qi Yo is this the home you’ve made for me?
Then I will stay here with you forever, never to be apart again.
A long blue figure walked into the peach blossom forest until gradually she disappeared from sight.
All that remained were thousands of peach blossom trees dotting the landscape with its brilliant glory.