Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but this chapter of Lost You Forever is intense and rough. So get your tissues ready and expect it to hurt and hurt really really bad right where the heart is. LYF has been a sadness train for many episodes now, ever since Jing fell into the river and Xiao Yao’s so close happy ending went along with it. Her bouts with assassination kept the action high and the wallowing in sadness to a minimum, but at the core of it she’s still a very unhappy girl who can’t get a simple normal ever after with her simple normal man.
With the remaining two men in her life, in one hand is her Emperor gege, and on the other is her demon secret heart connected not quite a friend but closer than just friends. It’s complicated doesn’t even begin to describe Xiao Yao and Xiang Liu, but for 45 chapters they’ve managed to make their indescribable relationship work. Sadly that’s coming to a close as the war between Xuan Yuan and the resistance army finally explodes right in front of Xiao Yao’s eyes. Circumstances, and one very stubborn and self-sacrificing Xiang Liu, pushes Xiao Yao to make a final decision that she’s been avoiding.
Ch 46 – The Heart Doesn’t Hurt When Bygones Aren’t Pondered:
Ever since the Gao Xing Princess married the Xuan Yuan Black Emperor, Gao Xing and Xuan Yuan merged into one kingdom with the Black Emperor as ruler. Nearly the entire vast wilderness was under the Black Emperor’s authority, and other than the ocean kingdoms on scattered islands, there was only one place that was not under his power – the various mountains occupied by the Sheng Nong Resistance Army and Qing Shui Town bordering it.
After Gao Xing and Xuan Yuan merged, there were scattered conflicts and even brief skirmishes, but after twenty years under the Black Emperor’s rule, the vast wilderness was at peace with transportation, goods, and culture freely exchanged. There might be lone voices of dissent but had no impact on the steady governance of the Black Emperor.
One Spring day, the Black Emperor sent Little Zhu Rong to pay a visit to Gong Gong and request his surrender and joining of the kingdom. Gong Gong refused, and within the span of three months the Black Emperor sent Little Zhu Rong three more times to see Gong Gong, each time with ever greater rewards and incentive. He even promised to make Gong Gong a regional King with his own armed forces, and allow him to govern the entire territory around Qing Shui Town. But Gong Gong turned it all down.
In the dog days of Summer, the Black Emperor issued an official proclamation to exterminate the Sheng Nong Resistance Army led by Gong Gong, sending soldiers North to battle.
Zhuan Xu took into consideration that Gong Gong was a member of the Sheng Nong royal family so he didn’t want to send Ying Long and Li Yuan, those old time Xuan Yuan generals, and risk reanimating the bitter antagonism between Xuan Yuan and Sheng Nong. He also didn’t want to send Feng Long and Xian, the Middle Plains new guards, and have them take on the big challenge at hand. He decided to send Ru So as the Great General with Yu Jiang and Ju Mang as the supporting generals. Even if Gong Gong and Xiang Liu were notoriously stubborn and fierce, with those three leading the charge and endless supplies and support behind them, Zhuan Xu was certain Gong Gong would lose in the end.
Just as Zhuan Xu was about to issue the decree, Feng Long came to personally beg to be allowed to lead the army, or even go and report to Ru So.
Zhuan Xu always treated Feng Long well so explained “Feng Long, it’s not that I think Ru So is better than you, I actually think sending you is even more certain of success. But your identity is special, even with the Chi Sui last name but you also carry the bloodline of the Sheng Nong royal family. If I send you to attack Gong Gong, then it means even the Sheng Nong tribe doesn’t agree with what he is doing. We’re going to win this battle no matter what so there is no need for you to be saddled with the anger of the world. I’m trying to protect you which is why I’m not sending you into battle!”
Feng Long knew Zhuan Xu’s words were sincere and it made him even more loyal to him. Not just because Zhuan Xu had the vast heart of a true ruler, but because as the ruler he still remained true to just being a man. He valued friendship and loyalty, even when he achieved his goal he never betrayed those who were good to him, especially when it was friendship.
Feng Long said “I know what Your Majesty is thinking, but years ago as we planned the goal was always the entire world! I knew this day would come and we are one final step away from our dream. How many men have dreams, and how many can make it come true? Not every man with a dream can lead an army of tens of thousands to help carve out a kingdom. I don’t care about getting a bad name with the world, I know what I am doing and this is the right thing to do. I don’t want to sit out the last battle, so will Your Majesty consent to let me go!”
The scene from so long ago when Feng Long came to see him in Xuan Yuan Castle flashed before Zhuan Xu. People were split thinking of what the Black Emperor’s greatest moment in his rise to power, the Yellow Emperor abdicating or the merging of Xuan Yuan and Gao Xing after the White Emperor named him as successor. In truth it was neither, the greatest moment happened in a simple room with no one around the catalogue it for the history books. It was his conversation with Feng Long, a meeting of the minds, an agreement without a blood oath even. Feng Long came and went in such a hurry, they didn’t even drink wine and instead toasted with water. But in that moment the two men both made the same decision and to this day that decision never wavered.
Zhuan Xu ordered “A new proclamation – Chi Sui Feng Long will be the Great General, Yu Jiang and Xian as your second-in-commands.”
Feng Long smiled and bowed low “Thank Your Majesty!”
Zhuan Xu said “This war will be very different than the war with Gao Xing years ago, Xiang Liu is not going to be easy to face, be careful!”
Feng Long got up with a smile “If it was an easy battle then I wouldn’t even want to go!”
Since Zhuan Xu sent Little Zhu Rong to sway Gong Gong, he would report on every development to the Yellow Emperor, who never seemed interested or said anything. Usually when Zhuan Xu reported on political updates, the Yellow Emperor always said for him to do what he thought best and no need to report, but this time he didn’t say that. Likely he saw this as something he never finished so he couldn’t act like he didn’t care.
Xiao Yao was always hanging out with the Yellow Emperor so she heard what was happening clearly. When Zhuan Xu said that he named Feng Long as the Great General to lead the troops to attack Gong Gong’s resistance army, Xiao Yao was brewing tea and at that moment her hand slipped and the scalding water poured on herself.
Zhuan Xu rushed forward and put iced water on her burned wrist while asking Miao Pu to bring the burn ointment. Zhuan Xu grumbled “Why are you so careless? What’s on your mind?”
Xiao Yao forced a smile “Nothing” and moved to continue to brew the tea but Zhuan Xu sent her back to the Yellow Emperor’s side and finished pouring the tea for everyone.
Xiao Yao asked “Will Feng Long be setting off soon?”
“Yes, in the next few days.”
Xiao Yao sat there silently, Zhuan Xu and the Yellow Emperor’s voices reaching her ears but her heart had flown out the window and beyond…….
The little Hui Chun Clinic, out the back courtyard was a plot of land growing medicinal herbs. Below the herb field was the West River, and following the West River it would lead into Qing Shui, and from Qing Shui it emptied into the East Sea. On the banks of the West River, she saved Jing. To catch the fei fei, she encountered the white condor Furball. She poisoned Furball and got whipped forty times by Xiang Liu as a potential spy. She wanted to poison Xiang Liu but instead poisoned Jing. She wanted to remove the bug from Zhuan Xu and made a deal with Xiang Liu, which turned out to be a Lover’s Bug where the hearts were beating the same and the lives were entwined……
“Xiao Yao!” Who knew when the Yellow Emperor left and Zhuan Xu was staring at her “What are you thinking?”
“I’m remembering Qing Shui Town.”
Zhuan Xu said “I lived there before, too. Don’t worry, I’ve already ordered officials to safely resettle Qing Shui townspeople.”
Xiao Yao nodded.
“Are you thinking about Xiang Liu?”
Xiao Yao looked down and said nothing.
Zhuan Xu said “I know you have some connection with him, and truthfully I’m rather admiring of his ability and loyalty. I’m even envious of Gong Gong’s fierce and unbending connection with him, but the Sheng Nong Kingdom is a thing of the past……….I have to eliminate them!”
“I know.” Xiao Yao was fully aware that Zhuan Xu did everything he could already to have them safely submit. The Xuan Yuan Kingdom had to fight this war, and for the Sheng Nong resistance army this would be a form of release. Zhuan Xu is doing nothing wrong, as the ruler of a kingdom he had to snuff out the final pocket of resistance, but Gong Gong and Xiang Liu were also not wrong in sticking with their loyalty and beliefs.
Zhuan Xu sighed “No matter my admiration for Xiang Liu, we stand on opposite sides so I hope you don’t have any further ties with him.”
Xiao Yao said “Don’t worry, I know!” It was because it was so clear since the very beginning, that’s why Xiang Liu kept reminding her, and she kept reminding herself, that she and Xiang Liu could never be friends.
Feng Long came to see Xiao Yao at Xiao Yue Peak right before he set off to war.
The last time they saw each other was four years ago when Feng Long came with Xing Yue and Chang, and since then Xiao Yao hadn’t seen him or asked about what happened to Xing Yue. In Xiao Yao’s mind, these people appeared to have vanished for the last few years.
Xiao Yao took Feng Long for a walk in the forest so as to not disturb the Yellow Emperor’s rest. Feng Long was silent on the walk and Xiao Yao thought about him leading an army to surround Gong Gong and Xiang Liu so she wasn’t in the mood to talk either. The two wordlessly walked all the way to the top of the mountain.
Xiao Yao saw the peaks of Zhi Jin Summit and the Palace ringed with clouds, which reminded her of standing at this spot with Xing Yue before she was marrying Jing. Xiao Yao’s eyes misted over thinking of Jing.
Feng Long pointed to Left Ear “Was he the one who saved you?” Left Ear followed them the entire walk and was now perched on a tree staring intently at Feng Long.
“Yes, he saved me.”
“Thank heavens he was there, otherwise I would have made a grave and irreversible error.”
Xiao Yao stared silently at Feng Long who said “Back then I really did plan on helping my sister kill you. The tens of assassins that he killed were all my best guards sent to kill you.”
Left Ear interjected “I didn’t kill them all, Xiao Yao killed them with me.”
Feng Long said “No wonder! I was wondering with their powers there would be no reason they would all lose just to one person.”
Left Ear said nothing else so Feng Long turned to Xiao Yao “You knew that I was trying to kill you, right?”
Since Feng Long was so candid then Xiao Yao didn’t want to deny it “I overheard your conversation with Xing Yue, you two were so agitated and not careful enough.”
Feng Long asked “Why didn’t you tell His Majesty?”
“Back then I greatly insulted you and the entire Chi Sui clan before a who’s who of the vast wilderness. You let it go and that was you being forgiving, but I still owed you so today let’s consider it truly even.”
“Are you angry? Look down on me?”
Xiao Yao shook her head “Since childhood you lived carefree, with the only frustration that people around you didn’t understand or accept your grand dreams and ambitions. But Xing Yue grew up in a nightmare childhood, when a girl dreams about getting a new outfit she dreams about not getting killed. Some lines one can’t cross, but once one does it then it must be seen through to the end! At that time you could only choose to help Xing Yue, if you cast her aside for yourself and Chi Sui clan then I would look down upon you.”
Feng Long glanced at Xiao Yao before laughing loudly “I, Chi Sui Feng Long, only proposed to one woman in my entire life, who knew she would run off. But now I don’t regret asking her to marry me, and I don’t regret the Chi Sui clan using the most lavish wedding ceremony to marry her. She’s worth it! It’s only a regret that she was so close to being my wife and that didn’t happen.”
Xiao Yao smiled and shook her head “It wasn’t so close, it was still missing an entire heart. One day when you see a woman as more important to you than winning a war, then you will know what I mean.”
Feng Long said “I asked His Majesty to let me lead the army this time not for higher position or more riches, I’m doing this only for Xing Yue. His Majesty didn’t take away her Empress position or lock her up, but he has completely and utterly ignored her. A knife slowly cutting flesh is even more painful, and without His Majesty’s respect then the women on Zhi Jin Summit all look down on Xing Yue. In three years she’s aged hundreds of years. I want to win this big war and when His Majesty asks me what great reward I want, I will want nothing other than to ask that he forgives Xing Yue this once.” Feng Long bowed low to Xiao Yao “When the time comes, please speak up for Xing Yue. I promise to have someone watching over her all the time, she will never do this again. And after these past three years, she will never have the guts to do it again either!”
Xiao Yao sighed loudly “You guys think His Majesty does whatever I ask but that’s only because I know him too well and never ask for something he won’t agree to. Like before when he attacked Gao Xing, and now when he’s going to attack……” Xiao Yao stopped herself before continuing “I’m well aware that even if I ask him not to attack he will not agree.” That’s why this time, unlike when he attacked Gao Xing and she was angry at him, now she could only silently and despondently look on as Zhuan Xu sent an army to attack Gong Gong and Xiang Liu’s resistance army.
Feng Long dropped to his knees with a loud thud and Xiao Yao frantically tried to get him to rise since the head of the Four Great Clans did not need to kneel before an Emperor “Feng Long, get up! Quickly get up!”
Feng Long had strong powers and intended to kneel so Xiao Yao could not pull him up, so she had no choice but to kneel down as well to face him because she could not accept such a prostrating gesture from him.
Feng Long looked inconsolable and Xiao Yao had never seen the confident arrogant Feng Long show this side before. Feng Long said “Xing Yue and I are twins and sometimes I think that if she was born first and taken to Chi Sui, and I stayed at Xuan Yuan Castle, how would she turn out? Perhaps she wouldn’t be as determined or she may not have married His Majesty. Maybe she would be very happy now. Xiao Yao, I beg of you! I beg you please!” Feng Long kept bowing his head repeatedly on the ground to Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao said “His Majesty can be very stubborn as well and on this matter I don’t know if he will change his mind. But I promise that I will plead for Xing Yue when the time comes.”
Feng Long said “I pray my success in war and your pleading will help Xing Yue in the end.”
Xiao Yao said “Can we stop kneeling now, if anyone saw us then I would be in big trouble!”
Feng Long took a deep breath and seemed to regain his usual demeanor, he stood up with a laugh “How come I feel like we’re finishing what we didn’t finish at the wedding ceremony?”
Xiao Yao slapped Feng Long hard on the shoulder like a buddy “Stop dreaming and go fight your battle!”
Years ago when Xiao Yao lived at Little Zhu Rong’s residence, her behavior and gestures were very tomboyish and sometimes Feng Long thought she was a guy dressing like a girl. Later it was either she became more feminine or they drifted apart, but he didn’t have that impression anymore. Now that mood came back and it felt like old times so he said with a laugh “Aren’t you going to wish me luck as I head to war?”
If she wished Feng Long luck, then where was she putting Xiang Liu? Xiao Yao grew silent and then shook her head “This is you men stuff and doesn’t involve me. I can’t stop you so I won’t say anything about it.”
Feng Long chuckled before bidding farewell “Fine! Then I’m off now! Let’s have a drink when I return victorious!”
Xiao Yao gestured farewell back and watched as Feng Long flew off towards the direction of the army encampment.
Tomorrow Feng Long would depart with a great army and Xiao Yao kept reminding herself over and over again – It had nothing to do with her! But why did it still hurt so much!
Zhuan Xu told Feng Long that this war was a must win for Xuan Yuan, but didn’t need to be rushed. Start with small skirmishes to determine the tactics of the opponent, but no matter what don’t get lured into the mountains by Gong Gong. The resistance army was based in the mountains and once lured inside they would have the full advantage. That’s why the Yellow Emperor sent forces many times in the past and all were defeated.
An army base needed supplies and provisions and the reason Gong Gong picked Qing Shui town was because it was aligned with Gao Xing and next to the East Sea for the water route. Even if the Yellow Emperor closed off all land routes for the provision of supplies, Gong Gong could still get supplied through Gao Xing channels or the water route. Back then Gao Xing was happy to have the resistance army be a thorn in the side of Xuan Yuan and secretly sent provisions, and even some powerful families secretly were helping Gong Gong. But now things were different, the entire vast wilderness was under the rule of Xuan Yuan and the kingdom army now had provisions and even the forces from all the major families with various powers.
Zhuan Xu wanted Feng Long to surround the resistance army and slowly choke off all its supply routes until it starved to the point of being easy to take down.
Feng Long set off to war and implemented Zhuan Xu’s battle strategy perfectly, battling the resistance forces until it retreated into the deep mountains. After a year of being surrounded, Gong Gong’s army didn’t act cowed and instead would sneak attack Feng Long’s army at night and never direct combat during the day. A little fire here, some poison there, soon Feng Long’s army was so nervous every night and afraid to sleep soundly.
During the war with Gao Xing, Feng Long was patient because he knew what he wanted. Even if he lost battles to Ru So he was certain that digging end then he’ll win the eventual victory. But this time his goal wasn’t personal valor or sense of achievement, it was to help his little sister. He could battle for ten to twenty years but Xing Yue couldn’t wait that long!
Before setting off Feng Long went to see Xing Yue to tell her to be patient no matter what. But Xing Yue’s attitude was cold and she even walked out on him, completely dismissing what Feng Long said. He was afraid that she would have a breakdown, or even worse throw all caution to the end and do something totally insane.
Due to worry over Xing Yue, when Feng Long got a secret report that Gong Gong’s army was spotted, he decided to attack and fell into Xiang Liu’s trap and suffered a major defeat.
Zhuan Xu was furious and perplexed, Feng Long may be brash but he wasn’t rash and clueless, and he never would force a victory just for the reward. Even when he lost big to Ru So and was forced to retreat, Feng Long did so willingly to preserve the bigger picture.
Because Zhuan Xu couldn’t figure out why Feng Long was acting out of sorts, it made him even angrier and he decided to switch the general.
The Yellow Emperor calmly asked “Are you sure you want to change the general in the middle of a war?”
Zhuan Xu wasn’t sure! Doing so was a very tense decision, especially with Feng Long’s lofty background. Some will declare the Black Emperor never trusted having a Middle Plains general leading, others will think that Feng Long wasn’t trustworthy which is why he was being switched out.
Zhuan Xu calmed down and said “I trust Feng Long so I won’t switch him out. I’ll go to Qing Shui Town myself to find out why he’s acting this way.”
The Yellow Emperor nodded his head when Xiao Yao suddenly said “I want to go with you!”
Zhuan Xu wanted to let her but was worried about the risk “This is different than the war with Gao Xing, it will be dangerous.”
“I’ll always stay by your side. You don’t have confidence in protecting yourself? In that case neither Grandfather or myself will let you go either.”
Zhuan Xu chuckled “So sharp tongued, all you can do is argue. Fine, let’s go together!”
Three days later the arrangements were complete and Zhuan Xu secretly set off for Qing Shui Town with Xiao Yao.
The once bustling Qing Shui Town was a thing of the past, when they passed Hui Chun Clinic Zhuan Xu explained “All the Qing Shui Town residents have been moved to nearby cities and towns and given land and fields. After the war if they wish they will be allowed to return.”
Xiao Yao silently nodded her head.
The entire Qing Shui Town was turned into an army base and Feng Long resided in the largest residence that was owned by the Tu Shan clan. Jing once lived there and now it was harried Feng Long who rushed out to greet them.
Zhuan Xu didn’t ask about the war so Feng Long instead joked “This is the best residence in town and if I don’t live here no one else will dare use it. How did Your Majesty know to find me here?”
Zhuan Xu explained “I lived a few years in Qing Shui Town so am familiar with here.”
Feng Long was taken aback and realized that it must be before he knew Zhuan Xu “Was Your Majesty still in Gao Xing at that time? Were you already preparing for this day even back then?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “Half and half, back then I didn’t have any faith in getting the throne and wanted to come check out the stubborn folks giving my grandfather a headache. But I also was thinking of what to do should the day arrive that I have to deal with these stubborn folks.”
Feng Long was chastened “I let Your Majesty down.”
Zhuan Xu patted Feng Long on the shoulder “Knowing you for hundreds of years, this one defeat isn’t letting me down, I’m worried more that you’ll be too hard on yourself.”
Feng Long said nothing and looked distressed.
Feng Long walked them inside, and while Zhuan Xu knew Jing used to live here back then he never visited so had no reaction. Xiao Yao walked into the courtyard that she was very familiar with, the one Jing lived in.
During the hottest days of summer an ice crystal wind chime would hang on the corridor, multicolored and in various floral shapes. As the wind passed it could carry the cold air and turn the courtyard as cool as spring.
Xiao Yao looked around and saw all the same blooming flowers just like it was before, bringing the sensation that a refined gentleman would walk through the door at any moment smiling at her.
But….that wasn’t to be!
The sunlight was the same, the view was the same, but the person looking at her with affection was no longer there. Xiao Yao’s heart hurt and her eyes saw black, she was about to collapse when Zhuan Xu grabbed her “Xiao Yao!”
“No worries, I almost tripped is all.” Xiao Yao tried to control herself but her breathing was ragged and both Zhuan Xu and Feng Long heard it clearly.
Zhuan Xu quietly asked “Did Jing use to live here?”
Feng Long remembered now that Jing said he knew Xiao Yao from before. Clearly Xiao Yao also lived in Qing Shui Town so Feng Long quickly said “I’ll have another place prepared.”
Zhuan Xu was about to say yes when Xiao Yao forced a smile “Here is fine.” At least there was the memory of him here.
Feng Long glanced at Zhuan Xu and saw him nod so bowed to leave and let them wash up.
After washing and changing clothes, Zhuan Xu walked outside to see Xiao Yao sitting in a daze on the corridor staring at the flowers.
He sat down beside her and asked “Is it the same view still?”
“The flowers are the same but back then there were ice crystal wind chimes hanging on the corridor.”
“I’ll have it hung up now.”
Xiao Yao glanced over and met Zhuan Xu’s eyes before she darted away “Zhuan Xu, you……you don’t have to do this!”
“Don’t have to do what?” Zhuan Xu’s voice was filled with sorrow “I can’t stop you from missing Jing so all I can do is make you as happy as I can. If missing Jing makes you happy then I’ll help you there too.”
“Will you be happy doing this?”
“My happiness or sadness doesn’t matter to me, all that matters is that you are beside me.”
“What if I never forget Jing, will you be like this forever?”
Zhuan Xu was silent for a moment before saying “Xiao Yao, I never asked you to forget Jing! No one can wipe away a memory, and I even know that when I’m old and white haired Jing will still be in your heart as if he just left. I just hope that you will allow me to be by your side going forward.”
Xiao Yao asked “Zhuan Xu, why do you beggar yourself like this? Why are you so stubborn? You’re the Emperor of the entire vast wilderness!”
Zhuan Xu smiled at Xiao Yao “Because you are my Xiao Yao.”
His tone was tender but his expression certain, so Xiao Yao could only once again avert meeting his eyes.
Zhuan Xu smoothed her hair “You rest and I’ll go meet with Feng Long and them. I’m also going to tour the army base so if I’m not back by dinner you eat first.”
Xiao Yao kept her head lowered so Zhuan Xu stood up and glanced at the courtyard full of flowers, tamping down his sadness before walking out.
Xiao Yao sat in the corridor staring at the flowers until it was near sunset.
Suddenly the loud screams and roars split the air and Xiao Yao raised her head to see Xiang Liu wearing a white gold mask, wearing a white robe, standing on the back of a white condor in the multi colored dusk clouds. He was holding a silver bow in hand and clearly already shot off an arrow and was cocking his bow to shoot a second one.
“Zhuan Xu! Noooooo!” Xiao Yao shrieked and rushed outside, her mind turning blank when she saw Xiang Liu release the second arrow. Her only thought was that nothing could happen to Zhuan Xu!
When she arrived at the front door, she saw Zhuan Xu sitting on the ground covered in blood, he was looking skyward as Xiang Liu already flown off.
Zhuan Xu projected his voice powerfully “Xiang Liu, one day I will take your life!”
In the cry of the departing condor, Xiang Liu was already far away but his arrogant cocky laugh reverberated in the sky.
Xiao Yao rushed to Zhuan Xu and tightly grabbed him, her body shaking “You…..you…..” Her teeth was chattering and she couldn’t get her words out.
Zhuan Xu grabbed her hand “I’m fine, Feng Long blocked an arrow for me, and the second arrow hit my bodyguard. This blood is all from Feng Long.”
The servants had already carried Feng Long inside and the army doctor was currently treating him.
Even though Xiang Liu’s arrow pierced Feng Long, it didn’t hit a critical area so Zhuan Xu wasn’t worried that Feng Long would be fine with the top doctors around.
Zhuan Xu said “Hundreds of years we’ve collected information on Xiang Liu, but no one knew that his archery skill was this top notch. Feng Long, thank you for taking an arrow for me, otherwise I would be dead today.”
Feng Long said “Xiang Liu must’ve been waiting nearby for us to return from the army base. The moment of returning to the residence is when the guard is most down, and the best time for an assassination. I think Xiang Liu should stop being a general and go be a killer for hire, he would be world reknown doing that. But Your Majesty, you just arrived this afternoon, how could Xiang Liu know in mere hours that you are here. It’s my lapse and I will investigate thoroughly……”
Feng Long’s body suddenly stiffened and his skin started to turn black.
Xiao Yao screamed “Control his heartbeat!” A powerful guard quickly injected power to stabilize Feng Long.
The army doctor was frantic “The wound has been patched and is non-life threatening. With General’s powers it shouldn’t be like this.”
Xiao Yao fed Feng Long a pill “The arrow had poison on it.”
Zhuan Xu said “Xiao Yao, quickly find an antidote.”
Feng Long stared at Xiao Yao, she might not be the best doctor in the world but she was undoubtedly the best poison master in the world.
Xiao Yao’s hands were cold and her voice shook “Xiang Liu came this time to kill, he used his own blood as the poison.”
“Xiang Liu’s powers come from ingesting all types of poisons to train. There is no poison in the world that can take him down, so his blood is now the world’s most poisonous thing.”
Zhuan Xu’s heart sank and his face turned ashen.
Feng Long forced a smile at Xiao Yao “So even you can’t find an antidote for it?”
For the past hundred years she tried every method to fell Xiang Liu with poison, giving him the hardest to find poisons to take him down. If she could counter his blood poison then Xiang Liu would have already been poisoned by her. Xiao Yao’s face was stark white and her voice shook “I…..I….I’ll do my best!” She claimed to have top medical skills but who knew the day would come that she would have to watch a friend die.
Xiao Yao was mixing an antidote when she saw Feng Long grasped with another wave of pain as his entire body lower half turned black.
The poison was spreading so fast it didn’t even give her time to try and concoct an antidote. Xiang Liu truly was stone cold and Xiao Yao’s tears fell “I’m useless! I’m so useless!”
Zhuan Xu had thought it was no big deal but now he was watching Feng Long use his life to exchange for Zhuan Xu’s life. He didn’t know what to say other than to keep apologizing “I’m sorry! Feng Long, I’m sorry!”
Feng Long smiled “Don’t be like this, death is inevitable anyways, so I’m merely going earlier than I thought. But I’ve already accomplished everything I wanted to do in life so have no regrets. Other than…..” Feng Long struggled to sit up and kneel before Zhuan Xu.
He was pushed back down and Zhuan Xu said “Whatever you want, just say it!”
“Your Majesty, I beg you to please forgive Xing Yue. I was also involved in the plan to kill Xiao Yao in Sheng Nong Mountain and truly have no face to even ask you this. But I truly cannot rest in peace worrying about Xing Yue. She……she seems smart but is actually a very stupid girl, she is resentful of our father and won’t listen to me now. I…….” Feng Long’s face was rigid and his voice choppy but he kept staring intently at Zhuan Xu.
Zhuan Xu said nothing, finally understanding why Feng Long wanted to lead this war.
Xiao Yao cried “Gege, please agree to do what Feng Long is asking!”
Zhuan Xu grabbed Feng Long’s hand and said with certainty “I promise that Xing Yue will be safe and want for nothing in her entire life, all the consorts in Zhi Jin Palace will honor her as the Empress!”
“Your Majesty!” Feng Long eyes reflected his relief as the blackness creeped up into his neck.
Zhuan Xu said “Only two people stuck with me when I was at my lowest point, one was Xiao Yao and the other was you! Xiao Yao and I have our fates entwined but you chose to support me as merely an outsider. You also gave me a man’s conviction and approval, and I’ve never told you how much that meant to me…..”
Zhuan Xu grabbed Feng Long’s hand and his eyes were filled with tears “No matter how many years pass, I will always remember us standing in front of the map of the vast wilderness in Xuan Yuan Castle, using a cup of water as a pledge to meet up in Sheng Nong Mountain. I used to think that once you defeated Gong Gong, I would have a cup of water with you. I also thought we would grow old and be able to regale each other with memories of a conquering life to a toast of water. My emperor path is destined to be lonely with no friends, but in my heart I’ve always seen you as a true friend. Even my most beloved Xiao Yao, I was only willing to hand to you!”
The blackness entered Feng Long’s face as he tried to smile but couldn’t move his face anymore. He was trying to say something so Zhuan Xu leaned down to listen.
“Your Majesty, actually…..actually it was Jing who came up with the plan to leave Xuan Yuan Mountain and claim Sheng Nong Mountain, it wasn’t my idea. He was always smarter than me, and he saw before I did the talents of Your Majesty. He actually talked me into supporting you. It was also his idea that the Four Great Clans band together and get all the Middle Plains families to support Your Majesty. I…….I took all the credit from him…….I’m sorry Your Majesty……..sorry Jing……” The darkness reached above Feng Long’s eyes and he stopped breathing with his eyes wide open. It wasn’t clear if his apology was for Zhuan Xu or Jing.
Feng Long’s last words were so shocking that it swept away Zhuan Xu’s sadness and he stood there in a daze. He always thought Jing had no choice but to choose him because of Xiao Yao and Feng Long, who knew it was the other way around, Feng Long chose him because of Jing.
Xiao Yao closed Feng Long’s eyes and her mind rolled back through all the memories as her tears fell. A hundred years, friendship and conflict, so much happened but it all came down to this moment of watching a friend die leaving only sorrow.
The cruel reality of life left no time to mourn as Yu Jiang rushed inside to announce that Xiang Liu just launched a surprise attack on the army base. The attacking forces were broadcasting that Feng Long just died so the Xuan Yuan army was in disarray and shock.
Zhuan Xu controlled all his roiling emotions, donned his battle armor and left for the army base.
From the moment Xiang Liu’s arrow struck Feng Long, he knew Feng Long was going to die. That’s why he left so quickly to get his army for a timely attack.
The Xuan Yuan army was a mess, having lost its leading general. Xian was so intent on getting revenge for Feng Long, she ignored Yu Jiang’s orders and rushed into battle, losing badly to Xiang Liu.
Zhuan Xu revealed himself at the critical moment and revived the flagging morale of the Xuan Yuan army, salvaging the defeat but at a great cost, with Xiang Liu taking half the provisions and burning the remaining.
When Xiang Liu’s forces withdrew, it was already late into the night.
Zhuan Xu gathered the command and issued orders on how to get provisions quickly while sending message to Ru So and Ju Mang to come immediately to Qing Shui Town. Ru So would take over as general and Ju Mang relieve Xian’s post, with Xian being sent to escort Feng Long’s remains back to Chi Sui for burial. Zhuan Xu would personal command the army base until Ru So and Ju Mang arrived.
Zhuan Xu finally slowed down to rest after two days and went to have dinner with Xiao Yao. After dinner he laid down still wearing armor since Xiang Liu could come back at any time and said “Xiao Yao……..”
He was cut off by the arrival of Yu Jiang who cut to the chase and immediately said “I couldn’t say this in front of others but yesterday Xiang Liu arrived too fast so there must be a spy beside Your Majesty or a problem with the commanding ranks. Either one is a major concern and needs to be fully investigated, but it will be hard to do with everyone unsettled right now.”
Zhuan Xu said “I’ll handle it, you needn’t think more of it.”
“No wonder Your Majesty didn’t mention it, you already have a plan to address it.” Yu Jiang was relieved and excused himself.
After Yu Jiang left Xiao Yao said “I must have lured Xiang Liu here.”
Zhuan Xu asked “Still that bug?”
“Yes, when I arrived my heart hurt when I saw Jing’s old residence. With his brilliance, he must have deduced that you also came.”
Tears pooled in Xiao Yao’s eyes but she controlled them from falling. Zhuan Xu patted Xiao Yao on the hand “Feng Long’s death is not your fault, don’t blame yourself. I was too careless.”
Xiao Yao bit her lip and said nothing.
If Feng Long hadn’t taken that arrow for Zhuan Xu, it would be Zhuan Xu who was dead now! Thinking of the person turning black being Zhuan Xu, Xiao Yao’s body shivered in fear. She was always aware that Xiang Liu and her stood on opposing sides, but with Feng Long’s death today before her eyes, she finally understood the stark reality – Xiang Liu is Zhuan Xu’s enemy! He could kill Zhuan Xu!
Zhuan Xu said “Don’t worry about the bug, Yin said that when the host person dies then the other bug dies or goes back to the host body. When Xiang Liu is dead then your bug will be lifted.”
Yin’s understanding was true for all bugs, other than the Lover’s Bug. Xiao Yao said “You get some rest!
She closed the night pearl light. Zhuan Xu had a lot on his mind, especially Feng Long’s last words before he died, but with so much going on he was exhausted and quickly fell asleep.
In the middle of the night, Xiang Liu did indeed bring soldiers on another sneak attack. Zhuan Xu rushed out of the room and in the hubbub no one noticed Xiao Yao. She used the Face Forming Flower to change her looks to Xian and with Left Ear’s help sneaked out of the residence.
Left Ear had his own winged ride and took Xiao Yao through many mountain tops until landed beside a lake.
Xiao Yao prodded the bug inside her as she called out in her heart – Xiang Liu, I want to see you!
The lake surface was calm and the moon reflected perfectly on it, with Xiang Liu not appearing for the longest time. Xiao Yao finally couldn’t control herself anymore and loudly screamed “Xiang Liu, I know you can feel it! Get the fuck here to see me!”
When Xiao Yao’s screams left her throat raw was when the sound of a condor cry reached her. A white condor zoomed down and flew close to the lake surface towards Xiao Yao. Xiang Liu flew off his winged ride and walked on the waves towards Xiao Yao. He was the ephemeral traveler from a faraway land, white hair white robe pristine without being touched by the dirt of the common world, even if each step he took was walking over war and fire and brimstone, nothing could affect him.
Xiao Yao raised her silver bow and pulled back an arrow aimed at Xiang Liu “Gong Gong lives for his fallen kingdom and stubbornly refuses to surrender, that’s something admirable! But people cannot fight against the inevitable, now Xuan Yuan, Sheng Nong, and Gao Xing have all united, each of the tribes, clans, and families are coexisting peacefully. If you kill Zhuan Xu then the entire vast wilderness will be launched into disarray and war will begin again. Hundreds of thousands of people will be swept up in the devastation. Is this what Gong Gong wants in order to cling to his loyalty, be true to himself at the cost of the peace of the world?”
Xiang Liu smiled a sardonic grin “If I kill Zhuan Xu, then it means the vast wilderness isn’t yet united, how can you say we’re going up against the inevitable?”
“You know in your heart whether what I’m saying is right or not!”
Xiang Liu stared at the silver bow in Xiao Yao’s hand and smiled “You want to use the archery skills I taught you to kill me?”
Xiao Yao’s hands shook but she yelled “Don’t move!”
Xiang Liu continued to walk towards Xiao Yao with a laugh “Can’t believe you’re going to get revenge for Chi Sui Feng Long. If you’re that into him then you should have married him. I mean, Jing’s been dead for a few years now……..”
Xiao Yao was so furious at his words the silver arrow flew forward with a whoosh.
Xiang Liu’s personally taught archery skills along with the priceless one of a kind bow hand forged by the Jin Tian family, and the two were not far from each other, so in a split second the arrow embedded itself in Xiang Liu’s chest. Xiang Liu’s body visibly shook slightly but he continued to walk towards Xiao Yao “Don’t forget I’m called Nine Lives Xiang Liu! If you want to kill me then you need to shoot a few more arrows! And you have to be more accurate! Right here!” Xiang Liu pointed at his heart and then spread his arms wide.
“You think I won’t dare!” Xiao Yao pulled back another arrow.
But ——- blood was spreading like a plum blossom on his white robe and Xiao Yao’s heart hurt so she closed her eyes and in that moment her arrow flew forward and missed, grazing his arm. Xiang Liu stopped in his tracks and he smiled at Xiao Yao, it appeared to be mocking but was in truth hiding his joy.
Xiao Yao wanted to pull another arrow but her heart was jumbled and she couldn’t do it anymore. She finally put her bow down, all the energy from Feng Long’s death dissipated and Xiao Yao turned to Left Ear “Let’s go back!”
Xiang Liu said to Left Ear “Stand to the side. If I want to kill her, there’s nothing even ten of you here can do!”
By now Left Ear knew that Xiang Liu was Bei, and Left Ear couldn’t understand what was happening before his eyes right now. He silently stepped aside.
Xiao Yao stepped onto the waves and walked towards Xiang Liu “What are you going to do now? Kill me and bet with the heavens whether the Lover’s Bug legend is true or not?”
Xiao Yao walked right up to Xiang Liu and looked up at him “I’m sad and angry, that’s all true, but in the end I still can’t kill you to avenge Feng Long. But you listen to me – if you try anything against Zhuan Xu, I will go assassinate Gong Gong! My archery skills were taught by you, you know what you taught me was all about killing. My poisons, you’ve sampled it all and even if it’s useless against you but it’ll kill Gong Gong easily!”
It appeared that she triggered Xiang Liu’s real anger and a red demon haze appeared in his eyes as his hand reached out and encircled Xiao Yao’s neck. She wasn’t scared and instead coldly scoffed “If you don’t have the guts to kill me then stop it with such useless crap! The Nine-tailed fox demon was way more creative than you in devising tortures on me, I endured it for thirty years, no way I’m scared of any little wee torture from you.”
The red haze disappeared in Xiang Liu’s eyes and he smiled while stroking the blood vessel on Xiao Yao’s neck “Nice! You finally got some sliver of the fierce personality you had when I first met you. Good to see that Zhuan Xu hasn’t turned you into a pampered pet.”
Xiao Yao shook as a cold shiver went up her spine “Let go!”
Xiang Liu didn’t let go, and instead pulled Xiao Yao closer to him by her neck “Did you forget the arrow you just shot into me? A blood debt needs a blood payment!” Xiang Liu lowered his head and bit down on Xiao Yao’s neck and began sucking her blood.
Xiao Yao tried to push him away but couldn’t break free, while Xiang Liu didn’t suck much and this appeared to be a symbolic punishment of sorts. He lifted his head and pressed it right next to her face and said softly “It’s been six years since Jing died, right? You still haven’t accepted his death, this trip to Qing Shui Town you didn’t even pay a visit to the last place he was at before he died.”
Xiao Yao glared in rage at Xiang Liu who acted nonchalant and continued to stroke her neck while smiling down at her and talking like it was a random chat between friends “Even before I knew you, I was already doing business with Tu Shan Jing for hundreds of years. He’s not a vindictive person, but he’s also not a weak fool. In hundreds of years, I’ve never once taken any advantage from him. He can time and again endure Tu Shan Hou only because he treats Tu Shan Hou as a relative. When he banished Tu Shan Hou to Gao Xing, he was well aware that the fracture between them would not end that easily. With Tu Shan Jing’s smarts, he would have been keeping guard against Tu Shan Hou still. He would have assigned someone to track Tu Shan Hou at all times in Gao Xing, and prevent him from growing his power again. That way if Tu Shan Hou still wants to kill Jing, he couldn’t even attempt it.”
In the dark silent night, Xiang Liu’s voice was clear and low like that of a lover “Xiao Yao, do you agree with my analysis?”
Xiao Yao gritted her teeth “What are you trying to get at?”
Xiang Liu laughed and gently said “I just wanted to say that Tu Shan Jing may not be vindictive but he also won’t take anything laying down either. Do you agree?”
Xiao Yao spit out “What if you’re right?”
Xiang Liu continued “Even under Tu Shan Jing’s assigned surveillance, Tu Shan Hou managed to shake it and sneak to Qing Shui Town and secretly contact Fang Feng Yi Yang to set the trap. But at that time, there were many Tu Shan Jing’s people in Qing Shui Town as well, the guards keeping an eye on Fang Feng Yi Yang and the guards protecting Tu Shan Zhen. You may not be aware but the Tu Shan clan trained guards are top rate, the clan does business so isn’t into battling but in terms of protection the guards are exceptionally skilled. As a killer for hire, I once saw a Tu Shan clan guard in action and after that I made a decision that unless my adopted father’s life was in danger, otherwise I would never attempt to kill any Tu Shan clan leader.”
Xiao Yao appeared to finally be processing what Xiang Liu was saying and listened raptly, and Xiang Liu slowed down his words “Tu Shan Hou’s men not only killed all the guards keeping an eye on Fang Feng Yi Yang, but also the thirty top guards Tu Shan Jing brought along to protect him. The remaining few who survived were rounded up by even more powerful foes so they couldn’t go save Tu Shan Jing. To dispatch so many top notch Tu Shan clan guards, how many even more powerful fighters would that have required? Tu Shan Hou was banished to a life of no money or connections, and under tight surveillance, how could he have commanded so many people to pull this off. If Tu Shan Jing was stupid and careless enough to have let Hou pull this off, then all I can say is that for the past hundreds of years, I was dealing with a totally different Tu Shan Jing.”
Xiao Yao raised her head to stare at Xiang Liu “What are you trying to say?”
Xiang Liu laughed and said nonchalantly “Tu Shan Jing’s death appears like a brotherly feud, but in truth someone else wanted Tu Shan Jing dead. Without this person’s facilitation then Tu Shan Hou could have never ever gotten close to Tu Shan Jing.”
Xiao Yao grabbed Xiang Liu’s wrist but her grip was so tight her entire body shook. She stared unblinking at Xiang Liu, with thrumming intensity in her eyes so strong it appeared that she was on the verge of lunging forward to kill Xiang Liu.
Xiang Liu continued to act like nothing was going on, his voice gentle but coldly firm “Even if who that person is remains unknown, but a reason to kill Tu Shan Jing boils down to conflict over position or personal vendetta. But it’s not easy to control so many top fighters to take down the Tu Shan clan trained guards. If you carefully analyze it, it’s not hard to find the truth.”
Xiao Yao’s body went slack and she almost toppled over. Xiang Liu reached out to grab her but she screeched “Don’t touch me!” before collapsing on the lake surface.
Xiang Liu sat down across from Xiao Yao staring intently at her. Xiao Yao’s eyes reflect her desolation in processing all this “If you’ve known this all along, why did you tell me just now?”
Xiang Liu smiled “There was no war before, what benefit to me if I told you all this?”
Xiao Yao’s heart shook “Is it only Gong Gong, your great savior and benefactor, that matters to you? And everyone else is but a chess piece to you! Other than assessing what use that person has for you, nothing else matters? Before when people called you cold and calculating, I always thought……. Now, I really agree!”
Xiang Liu smiled and shook his head at Xiao Yao, like staring at a mentally slow child “I’ve always been a cold-blooded monster. It’s not that I’m heartless now, it’s that you’re an idiot for thinking otherwise!”
Xiao Yao stood up and looked down at Xiang Liu “General Xiang Liu, if you want to use me to cause internal strife then you’re sorely going to be disappointed.”
Xiang Liu smiled “No matter my purpose, all I said was the truth.”
“I won’t forgive anyone who harmed Jing, but I also won’t do as you wish. Like you said, you never took any advantage of Jing, and now you won’t do the same to his wife!”
Xiao Yao turned to leave when Xiang Liu called out “Wait! I gave you useful info, aren’t you going to pay a price?”
Xiao Yao coldly said “What do you want?”
“Your blood! The war will only get more intense, making some healing pills to keep handy isn’t a bad thing.”
Xiao Yao furiously scoffed “How much do you want?”
Xiang Liu had a smile on his face but his words were stone cold “As long as you’re not going to end up dead, then as much as you can give!” He moved his hands and the water before him churned into the shape of an urn, so big it could fill all the blood coursing through Xiao Yao.
“You can have it!” Xiao Yao used her silver bow to slice her right wrist viciously, with the blood spilling forth. She said through tears “This isn’t for the information you gave tonight, it’s for everything you’ve done for me that I owe you!”
Xiao Yao stood next to the urn and watched the blood pouring from her wrists but all she saw was scenes from the past – him and her on the ocean watching the moon rise, when he took her strolling underwater, when he put his hand on hers to teach her archery, when he took her to eat and gamble, when he ate her poisons like the most delicious delicacies, how he spent thirty-seven years in cold dark water keeping her company……..all of the warmth of those memories were now splashed with the cold of her blood. Xiao Yao felt cold, so cold she was shivering, so cold but she didn’t know if it was from blood loss or the devastating sadness that was turning her heart cold.
As the blood filled up the urn, Xiao Yao’s face turned paler and paler, her body also began to sway, but Xiang Liu only coldly looked on with the same smile on his face, as if he couldn’t wait to turn even Xiao Yao herself into a healing pill but for their lives being connected.
Xiao Yao saw black before her eyes and toppled forward, nearly into the urn. Left Ear rushed forward to catch her and was about to staunch her blood flow when Xiao Yao pushed him away weakly “Don’t get involved…….this………this is between him and me!”
Xiao Yao collapsed on the edge of the urn as her blood continued to flow into it. Left Ear said “No matter what she owes you, this blood is more than enough payment!”
Xiang Liu coldly smiled back “She’s not dead yet!”
Xiao Yao forced a devastated smile and gritted her teeth before taking her bow to slice open her other wrist so the blood could flow faster. Both her hands were spilling blood into the urn and Xiao Yao had no strength to open her eyes anymore so all she could was hear the sound of blood flowing.
After a moment Xiang Liu said quietly “You can take her back now.”
Xiao Yao lifted her head to stare at Xiang Liu “You should take as much as you can tonight. After tonight, you and I are strangers – for this life and this lifetime, I never ever want to see you again!”
Because of the blood loss, Xiao Yao couldn’t even see anymore so she didn’t get to see Xiang Liu’s expression, all she heard was him say again “Take her home now!”
Xiao Yao fainted dead away, and the tears she was struggling to hold in finally fell from her eyes and splashed down her cheeks into the urn, causing a ripple.
Xiang Liu silently stared at the blood in the urn as the ripples spread out.
Left Ear kneeled down and bowed silently to Xiang Liu before taking Xiao Yao away.
Xiang Liu didn’t move or say a word, only staring at the urn with the same plastered smile on his face. He could see clearly the glistening blood inside, beautiful in its power. He stretched his palms forward and conjured up power, a blue green light glowed around him like stars and the urn gradually got smaller and smaller until it became a blood red jewel the size of a pigeon’s egg. Xiang Liu held it in his hand, and turning the blood into a jewel appeared to have sapped Xiang Liu of his power and his face was pale and his hands shook. He closed his eyes and pursed his lips, and after some time he was able to make a call that only the water tribes could hear.
After some time, a ripple appeared in the water’s surface and a merman rode the waves up to Xiang Liu. He stopped before Xiang Liu and bowed respectfully.
Xiang Liu handed the red blood jewel to the merman who carefully received it and placed it into a blue shell that was custom made by the Jin Tian family for this jewel. Xiang Liu spoke to the merman in the mer language, and the merman listened to Xiang Liu’s instructions before nodding and bowing to Xiang Liu. He turned and rode the waves towards the direction of the ocean.
Xiang Liu watched the merman until he disappeared from view. He then lowered his eyes and looked at the arrow protruding from his chest. He touched it lightly with his hands before taking a deep breath and pulling it out of his chest with one move. As the blood gushed out of the wound, Xiang Liu seemed exhausted and finally just collapsed on the lake surface. He looked up at the sky as the smile was slowly wiped away.
The black clouds covered the bright moon so all that shone in Xiang Liu’s eyes were – a darkness without light, a darkness without end, a darkness of eternal loneliness.