I’m always in awe of writer Tong Hua’s ability to keep the plot moving so briskly and sensibly, on top of creating unforgettable characters in so many of her stories. Both skills come to play now that Lost You Forever is deep into the third and final volume of the epic novel, with no signs of slowly down or losing steam. Zhuan Xu finally unites the vast wilderness under one rule, finishing the dream left by his grandfather the Yellow Emperor. Along the way much was sacrificed, from family to love, and the cracks are starting to show in Zhuan Xu’s tight self-control now that he’s gotten to the very top.
I really like his character even if my boo is forever Xiang Liu, in many ways Zhuan Xu is the male counterpart to Xiao Yao so we can consider the novel having two main characters in Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu. In that respect, Jing and Xiang Liu are simply the male leads to Xiao Yao whereas Zhuan Xu’s story is just as front and center as Xiao Yao’s journey, and compared to her he’s had it just as rough in different ways. At this point, everyone has gotten what each wants except for Zhuan Xu, so will he continue the status quo or shake things up for a final grasp at his personal happiness? I’m guessing he’s not going to watch Xiao Yao leave his side that willingly.
Chapter 41 – Full of Emotion Yet Seeming Emotionless:
Even though Zhuan Xu already married many women, Xiao Yao had actually never prepared a wedding present for him before. Every time Zhuan Xu had one prepared on her behalf and Maio Pu send it out in her name. Many times Xiao Yao didn’t even know what the present was.
This time it was the wedding of Zhuan Xu and Ah Nian and also the first time Xiao Yao prepared a present personally. She really wanted Zhuan Xu and Ah Nian to be happy, even if she knew Zhuan Xu could get everything in this world but the simplest of happiness might be beyond his reach. So while she was wishing for Zhuan Xu to make Ah Nian happy, she was also hoping Ah Nian could bring some happiness to Zhuan Xu. At least Ah Nian grew up with Zhuan Xu and was not like all his other women.
The night before the wedding, Zhuan Xu walked in as Xiao Yao was inspecting the wedding present.
Xiao Yao spread her arms and blocked the view of the present “Don’t look, you’re not allowed to look. This is for you to open with Ah Nian.”
Zhuan Xu wasn’t interested in the slightest, not even sparing it a glance, before grabbing Xiao Yao outside with him “Go walk with me in Qi Qing Garden.”
Xiao Yao was dejected “You don’t even care about my present.”
“Yes! I don’t care because I don’t even want it!”
Zhuan Xu took giant strides so Xiao Yao had to run to catch up. It wasn’t until entering Qi Qing Garden did Zhuan Xu slow down. Xiao Yao raised her head to look at Zhuan Xu “Did you drink? You’re not drunk, are you?”
“No!” Zhuan Xu coldly scoffed “Tomorrow is not just any wedding, it’s when the Xuan Yuan Emperor marries the Gao Xing Princess. The armies inside the Gao Xing borders and at the outskirts combined are greater than a hundred thousand men. This is a matter as important as the world, what right do I have to get drunk!”
Xiao Yao stared quizzically at Zhuan Xu “I thought you would be a little happy at least to marry Ah Nian. In your heart, is Ah Nian the same as all the women living on Zhi Jin Summit?”
“Ah Nian is not the same as them! But that not the same is also not the same as me wanting to marry to her!” Zhuan Xu angrily punched the water and sent a water spout into the air before the drops fell back down.
In the past, Zhuan Xu didn’t want to get married either but he controlled his emotions well, but this time he was losing control so Xiao Yao asked “If you don’t want to this much, why did you agree?”
Zhuan Xu turned and stared angrily at Xiao Yao “Why did I agree? Don’t you all think I would naturally agree? Did you even care what I wanted? All you cared about was that Ah Nian got to marry me! In your mind, I already had so many women, it wouldn’t matter to add one more Ah Nian!”
Xiao Yao’s temper flared up “But isn’t that the truth? There are so many women on Zhi Jin Summit, what’s the difference in adding one more? Years ago you could happily marry Xing Yue, compared to her Ah Nian isn’t any bit worse off. Has Ah Nian given you less than Xing Yue did? She is bringing to you the peace and stability of all of Gao Xing!”
Zhuan Xu’s expression was dark and livid, his chest rising and falling fast as he pressed closer to Xiao Yao step by step “When was I ever happy to marry Xing Yue? You tell me now what kind of happy I was to marry her!”
Xiao Yao took steps back and remembered that she ran back to Gao Xing during that wedding so she never watched Zhuan Xu get married. She sheepishly said “The tea houses of Gao Xing said your wedding was lavish and exciting, the entire world saw you happy and thrilled!”
Xiao Yao backed up to the pavilion support beam and had nowhere else to go but Zhuan Xu continued to stalk towards her. Xiao Yao sat down on the steps and pressed up against the beam “Zhuan Xu, don’t act drunk as an excuse to throw a fit! If you have the guts then you throw this fit tomorrow in front of the wedding guests!”
Zhuan Xu pressed both arms on the beam and encircled Xiao Yao right in front of him, bending down until he was face-to-face with her and spit out each word clearly “Let me tell you, each time I’ve gotten married I’ve been miserable. The time I married Xing Yue, I was so miserable I hated myself, and even hated you!”
Xiao Yao leaned back acting like she was going to kick him off “Let me tell you, if you keep acting up I’m going to fight back!”
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao as his head slowly lowered. Xiao Yao stared with her eyes wide as saucers “I’m going to kick you!”
Just as Zhuan Xu’s lips was about to touch Xiao Yao, he suddenly turned his face and rested it on Xiao Yao’s shoulder, breathing heavily.
Xiao Yao softly asked “Zhuan Xu, what’s gotten into you?”
Zhuan Xu raised his head and lightly rubbed Xiao Yao’s head before sitting down beside her “You’re right, I don’t have the ability to do as you said! So tomorrow I’ll let the world see my happy face!” If he had the ability, then why would he have needed the Tu Shan and Chi Sui clans many years ago to help him win the throne, and in the process handed Xiao Yao to them with his own hands.
Xiao Yao looked at Zhuan Xu but his face was turned away so she couldn’t see his expression “Why are you so upset today? In the past I can understand your feelings but right now I don’t have a clue. Fine, I’ll admit I only thought about Ah Nian and didn’t consider what you wanted. But I really thought……one more wouldn’t make any difference!”
“Xiao Yao!” Zhuan Xu’s voice contained his rising anger.
Xiao Yao quickly added “Don’t be like this! If you really don’t want to marry Ah Nian then let’s find a way to call off the wedding.”
Zhuan Xu was silent and then said calmly “How to cancel? The wedding is tomorrow and the entire world knows it. One hundred thousand soldiers are standing by. One wrong move and the world descends into chaos, and Ah Nian will hate you and me forever!”
“I don’t know! I don’t care if Ah Nian hates me, or hundred thousand soldiers, or world peace, all I care about is that if you’re not willing then I will support you! Let’s find a way, we can find a way together.”
For him, Xiao Yao was willing to risk her life, and be at odds with the entire world. But she wanted to live the rest of her life with another man. Zhuan Xu started laughing, and it wasn’t clear if his laughter was sorrow or joy.
Xiao Yao jumped up “I’m going to find my dad!”
Zhuan Xu stopped her with a smile “There are already tons of women on Zhi Jin Summit, it really doesn’t matter to add one more. I just drank too much today but am fine now!”
Xiao Yao stared at Zhuan Xu who patted the spot next to him so she sat down. Zhuan Xu said “Same rules, don’t prepare a present for me, don’t say congratulations, and tomorrow don’t even show up at the wedding!”
“But how am I going to explain to Ah Nian and my dad?”
“You’re the Princess stricken from the Gao Xing royal family register, your attendance is what would be awkward.”
Even though Xiao Yao really cared about Ah Nian and the Grand Emperor, but neither was as important to her as Zhuan Xu so she said “Fine, tomorrow I’ll hide myself away.”
Zhuan Xu lazily leaned against the beam and used his fingers to flick at the lake, and with each flick he would send a power surge into the water and a spray would burst from the surface.
Xiao Yao wrapped her arms around her knees and stared at the water bursts on the lake, and after some time suddenly asked “You were never happy even once?”
Zhuan Xu’s answer was immediate “Never.”
“I think you will be happy one of these days, eventually you’ll meet a woman you love.”
“I also want to know what it feels like to marry a woman I love. I want to feel genuine happiness, I want to accept other people’s congratulations with true joy.”
Xiao Yao’s heart hurt and she said “You will!”
Zhuan Xu smiled “I believe that too, I believe if I have the patience to keep waiting then I will wait for that day to come.”
“Yes, it will come. But when that day arrives, you can’t treat Ah Nian poorly because of her.”
Zhuan Xu tenderly smiled at Xiao Yao so she sassed “What are you smiling about?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “When I marry her, I will listen to her on everything.”
“What?” Xiao Yao jabbed her finger at Zhuan Xu “You……you have some backbone, will you? What do you mean listen to her on everything? You’re the ruler of an entire kingdom!”
Zhuan Xu drawled “This is different than having no backbone. As long as I marry her, then I will take her side on everything. Whatever makes her unhappy, I won’t do it.”
Xiao Yao started pinching him to get the point across “What if she doesn’t like me, or she says bad things about me? Will you listen to her then?”
Zhuan Xu was laughing so hard his shoulders were shaking so Xiao Yao demanded “Answer me!” Zhuan Xu kept staring at Xiao Yao and saying nothing so Xiao Yao continued to threaten him “Tell me clearly now! When that day comes, are you going to listen to her or listen to me?”
“Can’t I listen to both?”
“Maybe both will have the same point of view?”
“What if it’s not the same?”
“What if there is never a case when it’s not the same?”
Xiao Yao grew anxious “Zhuan Xu, tell me now so that I can make preparations for the day when I’m not in your good graces anymore!”
“Then of course I will listen to……..” Zhuan Xu paused “….you!
“Oh! That’s more like it!” Xiao Yao breathed a sigh of relief before realizing how immature she was being. But then she saw how Zhuan Xu’s expression had lightened up and he seemed very happy, so it was worth being teased by him.
Xiao Yao asked “Feeling better?” Zhuan Xu nodded. Xiao Yao added “Then when you’re unhappy tomorrow, think of all that you’ve accomplished, and even if you’re unhappy you can still make Ah Nian happy!”
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao so she quickly added “It’s not that I care about Ah Nian more than you. It’s just that this is the best way for you……oh you know what I mean.”
Zhuan Xu could have said “Okay” or “Sure”, but he instead answered “I’ll listen to you”, clearly still remembering their earlier conversation. Xiao Yao laughed and smacked him.
Zhuan Xu grabbed Xiao Yao’s fist in one hand and the other pressed on the beam behind Xiao Yao’s head, smiling down at her “Qi Qing Garden is your favorite spot on Five Gods Mountain. Going forward I’ll construct a replica of Qi Qing Garden on Xiao Yue Peak on Sheng Nong Mountain for you.”
Xiao Yao understood Zhuan Xu’s intention, even though her mom was long gone, her dad still maintained the places her mom frequented to remain exactly the same. But from now on this place no longer belonged to her dad, and Ah Nian would naturally renovate it based on her own wishes. All the memories that belonged to Xiao Yao were gradually getting lost.
Xiao Yao stared at the bamboo forest in the distance and said nothing. After a pause she smiled and shook her head.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want it, but Xiao Yue Peak wasn’t her permanent residence either so why waste the effort? She could consider having Jing build her a Qi Qing Garden in Qing Qiu.
Zhuan Xu turned his head aside, the smile still lingered on his lips but his eyes were cold.
The two sat there in silence, each thinking their own thoughts, until Xiao Yao said “Let’s go back and rest, tomorrow you have to rise early.”
The two stepped out of the pavilion to see that the stars were blanketing the sky. Both slowed their steps at the same time. When they were small, during the summer after bathing, they would play in the outside corridors and then lay down to look at the stars above when they got tired.
Zhuan Xu softly said “Often I would miss the days on Cao Yun Peak, but back then Cao Yun Peak didn’t belong to me and I had no power to keep you beside me.” He vividly remembered when Auntie was sending Xiao Yao away and he begged to have her stay, promising to take care of Xiao Yao, but his Auntie answered that he didn’t have the power to protect himself much less her.
Xiao Yao was silent but her expression was solemn and sad. She arrived at her residence and said “It’s all in the past! Now Xuan Yuan Mountain, Sheng Nong Mountain, and Five Gods Mountain all belong to you.”
Zhuan Xu smiled “Yes, all belongs to me!”
Xiao Yao felt that Zhuan Xu’s smile didn’t have any happiness in it so she worried asked “Tomorrow’s wedding…..”
Zhuan Xu waved his hands for her to go inside “Have I ever screwed anything up? Go rest and have Miao Pu and Xiao Xiao take you out to sea tomorrow to play.”
Xiao Yao thought and realized that from childhood until now Zhuan Xu had never made a single mistake! She was relieved so nodded her head and went inside.
Zhuan Xu slowly walked under the stars – yes, he would never make a mistake, because only when he never made any mistakes could Xiao Yao make as many mistakes as she wanted. It was why she could be Qi Yo’s daughter and still live without a care in the world.
Zhuan Xu said in his heart: Auntie, do I have enough ability now to protect myself, and to protect Xiao Yao?
In mid-Autumn, at the bright of noon, the Xuan Yuan Black Emperor Zhuan Xu took the Gao Xing Princess Gao Xing Yi as his Empress.
On the day after the wedding, the Grand Emperor summoned his officials and announced his abdication due to his ill health, passing the throne to Zhuan Xu for the future of all Gao Xing people.
The court was in an uproar but since the Chang Yi and Bao Hu tribes already defected to Zhuan Xu, and the Qing Long and Yi He tribes supported the Grand Emperor, as well as the Emperor’s Five Gods Army, the remaining dissenters had no choice but to accept the reality.
Under the protection and escort of hundreds of armed soldiers, Zhuan Xu became the Emperor of Gao Xing. The war between Gao Xing and Xuan Yuan ended, the two kingdoms merged under the authority of the Black Emperor.
From then on, nearly the entire vast wilderness was under the control of the Black Emperor.
But this was not a successful end but a difficult beginning, as now there were three tribes bickering for power with Zhuan Xu. But his path to power was always difficult so his personality developed to being forgiving and generous, intelligent and thoughtful, and he used his vast wisdom to handle all the complaints and conflicts and resolve it one by one.
Zhuan Xu did not marginalize Ru So, who defeated the Xuan Yuan army time and again during the war, and instead used him greatly as his loyal official. Even the officials who disagreed with him in the past were not punished and Zhuan Xu continued to listen to their opinions. For those few who harbored ill will and fomented discord, Zhuan Xu did not hesitate and punished them harshly.
Under the support and guidance of the Yellow Emperor and the Grand Emperor, Zhuan Xu got past the most difficult phase until all the officials understood and accepted that he truly was the Emperor to all.
After Zhuan Xu’s wedding, Xiao Yao lived on Five Gods Mountain a bit longer until she was confident that the Grand Emperor’s health was fine. After abdicating, he managed to stabilize his healthy but real recovery could not come until he left everything behind on Five Gods Mountain.
Seeing that the Grand Emperor was doing well, Xiao Yao decided to go back to the Middle Plains first with Jing. Arriving on Sheng Nong Mountain, she saw it was still the same, the exuberance of Five Gods Mountain didn’t reach all the way there.
Xiao Yao asked the Yellow Emperor “Xing Yue didn’t object?” The Yellow Emperor casually answered “Of course she’s not happy but she’s a smart woman. She can’t stop it and knows it doesn’t affect her position here. It’s better than Zhuan Xu marrying Ah Nian and bringing her back to Xuan Yuan Mountain.”
Xiao Yao thought about it and agreed. Ah Nian lived on the far away Five Gods Mountain, and even if Zhuan Xu needed to be there more in the coming years until Gao Xing was fully stabilized and integrated, he would still be spending the majority of his time on Sheng Nong Mountain. So in reality Ah Nian may also have the Empress title and Five Gods Mountain, but Ah Nian wouldn’t be wielding real Empress authority or take away anything from Xing Yue.
Xiao Yao mused “Dad really is wise, he knew that only by letting go of everything could he ensure Ah Nian’s happiness and peace her entire life.”
The Yellow Emperor’s expression grew solemn “Very few can clearly see, even fewer can see clearly and choose to give it all up, and even less do so willingly. In the past I didn’t give him enough credit for his breadth of character. It’s just too bad your mom first met……” The Yellow Emperor sighed and let his words trail off.
Xiao Yao took out a silk pouch and handed it over “Zhuan Xu wanted me to give this to you. He said that he doesn’t have time to study it so wanted Grandfather to give it a shot.”
The Yellow Emperor opened the pouch and inside was a jade shaped like half a goose egg. He took out the other half already in his possession and put it together to form a complete jade egg. He sighed, hundreds of years later it was finally complete, the River Drawing Mountain Book. Legend had it that the person possessing it would rule the world. But in truth it was first ruling the world before a person could possess it. No wonder Qi Yo and Zhuan Xu could care less about it.
Xiao Yao curiously asked “What’s hidden inside?”
The Yellow Emperor said “I’ve been studying it for hundreds of years and have an idea. Soon we’ll know for sure.”
The Yellow Emperor closed his eyes and injected his power into the jade egg, and after a few moments he opened his eyes and sighed loudly.
Xiao Yao asked “Grandfather, what did you see?”
“Inside is a map of the entire vast wilderness, notes on various spiritual maze construction, and a section of the journal of the Great Emperor Pan Gu.”
“Looks like this really contains the personal items left behind by the Great Emperor Pan Gu. What does it say?”
“Just notations on what regions with different climates are suitable for planting what crops, much like the medical journal left behind by the Flame Emperor. This contains the things the Great Emperor Pan Gu still hadn’t completed. The mazes are not intended for battle but to assess the climates of places and help analyze how to plan crops.”
Xiao Yao thought about it and understood “The Flame Emperor wanted to help heal the world’s ails, while the Great Emperor Pan Gu was thinking of keeping his people from ever being hungry.”
The Yellow Emperor nodded and sighed “So the secret to ruling the world was never any mystery, to keep the people healthy and fed would then naturally lead to ruling a content world.”
The Yellow Emperor looked out on the fields deep in though. Xiao Yao smiled, her grandfather was going to be busy again. In addition to completing the Flame Emperor’s legacy, he now wanted to complete the Great Emperor Pan Gu’s wish that the people were well fed.
The Yellow Emperor put the jade egg away and asked “Why are you smiling?”
Xiao Yao bowed “Your Majesty, you put all the pains and suffering of the people in your heart, the people will also put you in their hearts. Thousands of years from now you will be like the Flame Emperor, revered and spoken about by all.”
The Yellow Emperor smiled and shook his head “I don’t care about that now, all I care about is doing what I can for the future of the people.”
A year later, the Grand Emperor moved to Xuan Yuan Mountain and into Cao Yun Court on Cao Yun Peak. He stripped the title of Grand Emperor and henceforth was known as the White Emperor. Zhuan Xu didn’t even know why he did that, but perhaps it was the only way to fully shake off the nightmares of the past or to tell the world that Gao Xing no longer had an Emperor.
The Qing Long and Yi He tribes followed the Grand Emperor to Xuan Yuan Mountain, and Zhuan Xu gave them fertile land that formerly belonged to the Xuan Yuan royal family, and further bestowed countless other lavish rewards. Both tribes were initially dejected to leave their homeland behind but after seeing what the Black Emperor rewarded both tribes felt comforted.
Both tribes consulted with the oracles during the move for auspicious signs, and the Qing Long tribe received an ominous omen. With the permission of the White Emperor, the Qing Long tribe asked the Black Emperor to bestow a new name for their tribe. Zhuan Xu henceforth bestowed the name of the Qing Yang tribe.
Initially no one thought much of it until learned that Qing Yang was the name of the Black Emperor’s eldest uncle. He was also the most favored beloved son of the Yellow Emperor, and also a great hero to the entire Xuan Yuan royal tribe. Even the Great General Ying Long who guarded Xuan Yuan Castle revered Prince Qing Yang, so having that name guaranteed the tribe would be taken care of living in Xuan Yuan.
The irony came when the Black Emperor divided the land that originally belonged to the two departed tribes among the remaining Bai Hu and Chang Yi tribes, but then named Ru So as the Great General with his armed forces stationed on those lands. Ru So was known by all to be from the Qing Yang tribe.
Everyone knew what a smart underhanded move this was by the Black Emperor, but also impressed with how much trust he had in giving such a powerful army to Ru So without any second guessing or even a surveillance troop overseeing.
The Black Emperor further named Ju Mang as another Great General in charge of the Five Gods Army to protect Five Gods Mountain. Both Ju Mang and Ru So were disciples of the Grand Emperor and good friends, so this showed that the Black Emperor’s trust was so great he didn’t worry about them colluding against him. With all this the lingering worries all slowly dissipated.
With the vast wilderness under one rule of the Black Emperor, the borders were opened and information and knowledge was freely exchanged.
The Yellow Emperor summoned all the famed doctors and healers around the vast wilderness and together with Xiao Yao convinced them to write down all their knowledge to create medical texts for future generations much like the Flame Emperor did in creating the herb medicinal manuals.
Without any wars and conflicts, time and the seasons passed quickly when there was much to do, and in the blink of an eye fifteen years had passed.
One night when Zhuan Xu came to Xiao Yue Peak, he saw Xiao Yao and the doctors busily assembling texts while many more doctors waited outside in exhaustion but looking content. Even the Yellow Emperor seemed anxious, playing Go with Jing but occasionally glancing over.
Zhuan stopped in his steps and curiously observed. Moments later someone called out “It’s done! The last volume is done!”
All the doctors gathered at the door and even the Yellow Emperor stood up. Xiao Yao walked to the Yellow Emperor carrying two stacks of books while the doctors trailed behind her.
Xiao Yao kneeled down “We have not let Your Majesty down. The compendium of medical texts took 42 years to complete with the involvement of hundreds of doctors gathering herbs and testing out the treatments. Thirty eight died falling off cliffs, fifty two disappeared in floods and storms, sixty one died at the hands of beasts and noxious fumes, and seven died at the writing desk still holding their pens and writing down medical knowledge.”
All the doctors and Xiao Yao started to cry silent tears as she lifted the books in her hands “There are a total of fifty five volumes of medical texts, split into two parts. Part 1 is 37 books containing all the herbs and usage methodology to heal, and Part 2 is 18 books that help prevent illness and promote health. Will Your Majesty please name the text!”
To build a kingdom, to conquer far and wide, to reunite the Middle Plains, assassinations and abdications, the Yellow Emperor experienced every single momentous event in the vast wilderness and was never affected, but this time his hands were shaking as he reached for the books.
The Yellow Emperor said “This set of medical texts may have been accomplished because I assembled all the doctors, but it was due to the Black Emperor uniting the vast wilderness that all the doctors could work together and travel freely to collect the information. So Zhuan Xu, you name the text!”
Zhuan Xu didn’t turn him down and walked over to the Yellow Emperor. He picked up the pen and thought for a moment before writing on Part 1 “The Yellow Emperor External Medicine Treatise”, and then writing on Part 2 “The Yellow Emperor Internal Medicine Treatise.”
With such simple words he gave birth to the world two priceless medical texts and everyone gathered cheered.
The Yellow Emperor paused before breaking into a laugh. With the completion of the medical texts the world can rejoice, and with having a grandson like Zhuan Xu, he can rejoice!
With this project completed, Xiao Yao’s busy life suddenly ended and she was so excited to do nothing again. She decided to go to Xuan Yuan Mountain to pay a visit to the White Emperor.
The White Emperor was looking well, likely from having no political matters to deal with, but he still carried a limp from waiting too long to treat it.
Xiao Yao was upset about that but the White Emperor laughed “I’m an old man now, no girl will spare me a second glance, so who cares if I walk a little ugly. I’d rather Jing’s leg get healed if there is a way.”
Jing just smiled and said nothing more so this issue wasn’t mentioned again.
The Yellow Emperor resided on Xiao Yue Peak and never left, calling doctors to write medical texts while he used the mazes left by the Great Emperor Pan Gu to conjure up different climate zones on the Peak so he could experiment with planting different crops. The Yellow Emperor was only interested in his crops and nothing else outside of the Peak.
The White Emperor was the opposite, he didn’t stay on Xuan Yuan Mountain at all, instead always traveling around and even took Xiao Yao and Jing down the mountain with him.
The White Emperor opened a blacksmith shop in a desolate alley in Xuan Yuan Castle. He made anything and everything other than weapons. The location was out of the way but his skill was unparallel so after tens of years it was so renowned that every day there were customers coming to place an order. The White Emperor was friendly and solicitous so all the folks liked this handsome old man.
If he wasn’t forging, he was drinking at an old wine shop while playing Go with an old musician, with the White Emperor losing more often than not. The old musician was so happy and suggested “It can’t be helped that you don’t have the natural aptitude, this is already hard for ordinary folks to learn. Do you know who invented it? It was the Yellow Emperor! I’m descended from an illustrious family so that’s how I learned a little.”
The White Emperor just smiled as the old musician proudly twirled his mustache.
Beside the blacksmith shop there was a large tree, with firewood stacked underneath. Jing helped the White Emperor chop firewood while Xiao Yao sat on a stump and stared at this completely foreign White Emperor. Was he the same White Emperor who never smiled on Five Gods Mountain and even one cutting look could frighten an entire court of officials?
Jing finished cutting firewood and sat down beside Xiao Yao. She murmured “How did he become a completely different person? If Ju Mang and Ru So saw him now they would die from shock!”
Jing said “Perhaps he is back to being who he really was, the White Emperor that your Eldest Uncle Qing Yang met was probably just like this.”
“Perhaps!” There was plenty of good wine on Xuan Yuan Mountain but he wanted to drink cheap wine, it couldn’t be the taste but likely the memories he was seeking. Was that shop really over a thousand years old, and could he have drank there with her Eldest Uncle? Xiao Yao signed “Initially I worried he wouldn’t get used to living on Xuan Yuan Mountain but clearly my worry was for naught. I think us being here is distracting him, let’s leave tomorrow!”
Back to Sheng Nong Mountain, Xiao Yao felt odd now that she had nothing to do. She discussed with Jing “Shall we go to Zhe Province to open a clinic?”
Jing said “How about open a clinic in Qing Qiu?”
“But Zhe Province is closer, Qing Qiu is farther away and a hassle making a trip daily.”
“If you lived in Qing Qiu, then it would be close and convenient.”
“What? Me live in Qing Qiu?” It took Xiao Yao a few moments to understand as Jing laughed “The Tu Shan residence in Qing Qiu is all arranged and ready for a wedding.”
Xiao Yao’s face gradually turned red as Jing took her hand “Xiao Yao, let’s get married! From the moment we got engaged I’ve been looking forward to marrying you.”
Xiao Yao’s heart surged with sweetness as she lightly nodded her head.
With her agreement, that night Jing discussed the wedding plans with the Yellow Emperor and the Black Emperor. Jing couldn’t explain why but he always got the sense that the Yellow Emperor was happy he was marrying Xiao Yao, but the Black Emperor was not.
But that made no sense as it was the Black Emperor that helped pass word for him and Xiao Yao long ago when they couldn’t communicate freely. And after arriving on Sheng Nong Mountain, it was with the Black Emperor’s allowance that he could meet Xiao Yao on Cao Ao Peak. Without the Black Emperor’s help all along the way, Jing could never have reached this point with Xiao Yao.
Jing had calmly analyzed this matter and felt that Zhuan Xu’s attitude changed after the Yi Yang pregnancy incident and Xiao Yao’s serious illness. Likely Zhuan Xu felt he hurt Xiao Yao too much, and did not match up to her as well as Feng Long did. But Zhuan Xu consented to the engagement so Jing could only hope that time will help him convince Zhuan Xu that he would treasure Xiao Yao forever and never make another mistake again.
As expected, when Jing brought up setting the wedding date, he saw both Emperors smile but Jing just had this niggling feeling that the Black Emperor wasn’t happy.
The Yellow Emperor said “You two have been engaged for so long, it’s time to get married. I’ve got the dowry all prepared, whenever the Tu Shan clan is ready then the wedding can take place.”
Jing immediately said “It’s all readied, the wedding can be tomorrow even!”
Both Emperors laughed as Xiao Yao blushed so Jing quickly explained “Tomorrow….tomorrow is too fast, I meant….everything is ready is all.”
The Yellow Emperor asked the Black Emperor “What do you think?”
“Have the auspicious days noted for us to consult!” Xiao Xiao went out and came back shortly with the list of upcoming auspicious days. It was passed around and the Yellow Emperor asked Jing “What do you think?”
Jing paused and said “A month later is too rushed, how about three months late in mid-Summer.”
The Yellow Emperor said “A great day!”
Jing and Xiao Yao turned to Zhuan Xu to wait for his opinion. Zhuan Xu glanced past Jing and Xiao Yao and said with a smile “Mid-Summer?” Jing answered “Yes.”
Zhuan Xu didn’t answer for some time as if pondering something. Just as Jing was about to get nervous, Zhuan Xu said in a clear voice “It’s a good day, set it for that day!”
Jing smiled as if all the weight was lifted and bowed to both Emperors “Thank Your Majesties!”
The Yellow Emperor glanced at Zhuan Xu before joking “You need to thank Xiao Yao, we are loathe to marry her off but she only has you in her eyes so even if we’re sad we’ll do as she wishes and marry her to you.”
Jing smiled and bowed to Xiao Yao “Thank you my lady for agreeing to marry me!”
Xiao Yao was embarrassed “How come no one is being serious!” She ran out of the room and felt her face flushed and didn’t want to go back. She walked along the creek and headed towards the phoenix tree forest.
Entering the phoenix tree forest, she smelled the fragrance and felt the petals falling around her. A large swing dangled in the center of the clearing, with the bench covered in red petals.
Xiao Yao used her sleeve to brush off the petals before sitting down on the swing. She swung a few times and felt her heart gradually calm down.
Zhuan Xu walked through the clearing towards her so Xiao Yao asked with a smile “Where’s Jing?”
“Discussing wedding details with grandfather.”
The swing was very large and could fit two people so Xiao Yao patted the seat beside her and Zhuan Xu sat down. The two sat side-by-side on the swing, looking down at the falling petals wordlessly.
From the phoenix flowers on Cao Yun Peak to the phoenix flowers on Xiao Yue Peak, this whole road Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu walked it together as each other’s sole source of support. No matter what happened, they knew the other person would be right there. In three months she would be getting married, and even if Qing Qiu wasn’t too far, at most she would see Zhuan Xu every few months. She had Jing, but what about Zhuan Xu? Who would keep him company when he was sad, chat with him after he got drunk?
Xiao Yao asked “Have you found the woman you want to marry?”
Zhuan Xu reached out his hand and caught a falling phoenix flower. He stared at the flower with a smile, silent and melancholy.
Xiao Yao reassured him “You’ll meet her one day!” But even she felt hopeless, Zhuan Xu experienced so much and met all sorts of women, Xiao Yao couldn’t imagine what woman Zhuan Xu could meet that could touch his cold steely heart.
Zhuan Xu tucked the phoenix flower in Xiao Yao’s hair and asked “If I found her, should I hold onto her tightly and never let her go?”
“Of course!” Xiao Yao said with certainty “Once you meet her, you have to told on tight.”
Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao and smiled.
Xiao Yao and Jing’s wedding was set and announced to the world, leaving the Tu Shan and Xi Ling clans busy planning the wedding.
Zhuan Xu announced he had to make a trip to Southeast region of the vast wilderness to handle some official matters, and then pay a visit to Five Gods Mountain and spend some time there before coming back. He would be gone about a month and wanted to leave Xiao Xiao behind to protect Xiao Yao. She had him take Xiao Xiao since he was traveling and he promised to be back safely for her wedding.
Xiao Yue Peak got quiet after Zhuan Xu left, thankfully Jing came every day using the excuse of wedding planning to keep Xiao Yao company.
Jing sat in the corridor with the Yellow Emperor playing Go when a servant announced the arrival of Empress Xing Yue here to congratulate the young lady on her upcoming wedding and to bring a wedding present.
The Yellow Emperor asked Xiao Yao “Do you want to see her?”
Xiao Yao remembered when she first arrived on Sheng Nong Mountain, Xing Yue was her first girl friend and they even slept on the same pallet and took trips together. But once Xing Yue became her in-law, it was like the two became distant. And after Xiao Yao ran off from the wedding, their relationship completely fractured and in all those years they never saw each other.
Xiao Yao said “She’s the Empress and if she’s making the overture to be nice then how can I have airs. Plus I was the one to wrong Feng Long and the Chi Sui clan first.”
The Yellow Emperor had Xing Yue brought inside and she immediately kneeled to him. The Yellow Emperor gently said “Get up, family doesn’t need such formalities. I’m playing Go with Jing so you don’t need to keep me company. Have Xiao Yao walk outside with you, there is not much here but the flowers are nice so have a look.”
Xing Yue looked at the Go board and knew that she was interrupting so nervously said “Grandfather continue your chess game, I’ll just stay a bit to talk to little sister and then leave.”
Xiao Yao accompanied Xing Yue out and Xing Yue shot a glance at Jing, who sat across from the Yellow Emperor but his eyes followed Xiao Yao. Xing Yue felt a host of conflicted emotions, from envy to unease.
Only after leaving the sight of the Yellow Emperor and Jing did Xing Yue speak “Congratulations.”
Xiao Yao laughed “Just saying it doesn’t count, I won’t accept unless it comes with a gift.”
Xing Yue laughed “Of course there are gifts! It’s already sent to your residence and likely right now your maids are cataloguing it for you. Do you want to go have a look?”
“No need! Gifts from the Empress is certainly going to be good.”
Despite the two exchanging their pleasantries, the relationship had already fractured and there was no way to go back to the way it was before. After that, there was nothing else to talk about. Xiao Yao couldn’t think of anything else to say while Xing Yue seemed to have her mind in the clouds. The two just walked along the creek silently until they reached the mountain top, only then did Xing Yue realize they hadn’t spoken in half an hour.
Xiao Yao didn’t care about silence so she sat down on a rock to look out and admire the view.
Xing Yue suddenly said “I’m very happy you’re marrying Jing.”
Xiao Yao looked up with a brilliant smile and said without any awkwardness “I’m also very happy.”
Xing Yue took in her smile and couldn’t help but smile back. This time Xiao Yao really was marrying a man, she really was going to leave Sheng Nong Mountain for good. To leave…….Zhuan Xu!
Standing on the mountain top, she could see Zhi Jin Summit in the distance in the clouds and Xing Yue stared at Zhi Jin Palace before loudly saying “I wish you and Jing to be happy and loving, forever and ever.”
Xiao Yao nodded her thanks before asking Xing Yue “Are you happy being the Empress?”
Xing Yue smiled “I got everything I wanted, I can’t say whether I’m happy, but I’m very satisfied.”
Xiao Yao smiled “Then congratulations to you too.”
Xing Yue stared at Xiao Yao and said very seriously “Because I got it all, that’s why my biggest fear is to lose it. Who wants to take it from me, I won’t ever let her get away with it.”
Xiao Yao sighed, thank goodness her dad had Ah Nian living on Five Gods Mountain and not involved in the competition in Zhi Jin Summit. But then the taking and the losing was all between Zhuan Xu’s women, he should be the one sighing and not her.
Xiao Yao stood up and opened her arms to the wind while yelling loudly “Hey!!!!”
The wind carried her voice echo and Jing arrived along with it. He first pulled Xiao Yao away from the cliff edge next to him before greeting Xing Yue.
Xing Yue said to Xiao Yao “Look! It’s only half an hour and he’s worried enough to come find you. Xiao Yao, you are very lucky, you need to treasure your luckiness!”
Xiao Yao kept sensing that Xing Yue’s words carried more meaning but she couldn’t figure it out, nor could she sense any ill will, so Xiao Yao just smiled “I will.”
Xing Yue said “I’ll be off now to say farewell to Grandfather. You two take your time down the mountain!” With that, Xing Yue didn’t wait for Xiao Yao and Jing’s response before using her power to rush down the mountain.