A good story makes the most out of its fictional conundrums, weaving intricate webs of conflict that leads to a cathartic payoff. The beauty and tragedy in Lost You Forever is that the conflict happens around characters that I love, and if I were to splice the three male leads together into one super character then that would be the only satisfying solution. Anything else leaves me in puddles of pity, and chapter 47 is a big ole pity fest that is long overdue. Xiang Liu basically stabbed me through the heart in the last episode, just like Xiao Yao stabbed him in the heart with an arrow and then declared she never ever wanted to see him again. Ooomph. If only she knew who was really being the assassination attempt on Jing, then she might have to summon up her anger one more time and make the same declaration to another man who loves her. I can’t say this could have been avoided if she were more astute, but Xiang Liu is correct in his snarky way that he has no obligation to clue her in on the critical point. One of Xiao Yao’s bad habits is running away but now it’s time for her to finally face the music.
Ch 47 – No One to Share in the Sorrowful Desolation
Xiao Yao had lost too much blood and was gravely weakened. Miao Pu fed her lots of elixirs and potions but Xiao Yao still slept through the entire night. Thankfully Zhuan Xu was preoccupied at the army base and didn’t return until the evening of the next night. By then Xiao Yao was awake and after putting on makeup, and with Zhuan Xu rushing to and fro, he didn’t notice anything was off about Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao kept drinking the elixirs like water, but she was still so weakened that the healing couldn’t happen overnight. She was tired and sleepy all day, and would often sit in the corridor leaning against the bannister staring in a daze at the flowers. Zhuan Xu thought she was missing Jing so didn’t make much of it, only ordering Miao Pu and Left Ear to spend more time with her and help cheer her up.
After a few days rest Xiao Yao was finally back to normal, and by then Ju Mang and Ru So arrived at the army base with the backup provisions. Zhuan Xu provided explicit instructions before taking Xiao Yao back to Sheng Nong Mountain.
Feng Long was the Chi Sui clan leader, and also the son of Sheng Nong nobility Little Zhu Rong. His death left a huge burden for Zhuan Xu to handle so he immediately met with the Yellow Emperor to discuss the matter.
The Yellow Emperor said “Some things are both a curse and a blessing, if you handle this well it can be both. Feng Long’s unexpected death, aside from your personal sadness, may not be a bad thing for the future of the kingdom.”
Zhuan Xu paused to think about it and understood what the Yellow Emperor meant. Gong Gong was the Sheng Nong kingdom general and still had strong ties with many Middle Plains families. If it was détente then no one would need to pick sides, but now that it was the final war then many Middle Plains families might feel torn on who to support. But with Feng Long’s death at the hand of Gong Gong’s subordinate, the Chi Sui clan and the Sheng Nong tribe would never ever forgive Gong Gong. Now all the Middle Plains families would stand behind them as well. So with Feng Long’s death, it actually severed whatever the remaining ties between Gong Gong and the Middle Plains completely.
Zhuan Xu bowed to the Yellow Emperor “Thank Grandfather for your wisdom, I know what to do now.”
The Yellow Emperor sighed “It’s not that you didn’t know what to do, it’s just that Feng Long’s death really affected you. It’s clear you really saw him as a friend.”
Zhuan Xu remembered Feng Long’s last words and grew silent.
The Yellow Emperor added “If Feng Long was alive then Xing Yue doesn’t matter, you can do what you want with her and I wouldn’t care. But now that Feng Long is dead, you have to treat her well. Later when you go back to Zhi Jin Palace, pay her a visit!”
“Feng Long said before he died that he has nothing left behind he would miss, other than being worried about Xing Yue. I already promised him that I would give Xing Yue a lifetime of peace and have all the consorts in the Palace respect her as the Empress.”
The Yellow Emperor was taken aback and sighed again “Feng Long, that child really is so loyal and caring. No wonder he insisted on going to war because it was all for Xing Yue.”
Zhuan Xu said “It looks like Xiang Liu killed Feng Long but in truth he was killed by Xing Yue! If it wasn’t for Feng Long I would………Sheng Nong Xing Yue!” All the bottled up rage from Feng Long’s death came bubbling up and his hands clenched into fists before he smashed the cups on the table.
The Yellow Emperor said “And you weren’t at fault? Why did Xing Yue want to kill Xiao Yao in the first place? If she didn’t try to kill Xiao Yao, why would Feng Long be forced to put himself in harm’s way? When you were small I gave you the choice and you chose to forsake love for the greater good of the world! This whole time you’ve never disappointed me, but on this matter with Xiao Yao you have greatly disappointed me!”
Since the Yellow Emperor abdicated the throne to Zhuan Xu, he was always warm towards him so this was the first time the Yellow Emperor spoke harshly.
Zhuan Xu stared at his grandfather and then said “I know, I did behave irresponsibly for my own selfish reason. Since my dad died and my mom committed suicide, I’ve strictly controlled myself, without a day or even a second of letting myself do as I want. In my entire life and lifetime, Xiao Yao is the only thing I have selfishly asked for. Grandfather – please agree to it!”
The Yellow Emperor looked down, how could he not know how Zhuan Xu felt. His expression warmed “If Feng Long’s death isn’t properly handled it could be a huge mess. Hurry back to Zhi Jin Peak now to take care of it. Always remember that you are the ruler of the entire world, you need to put the interests of the entire world first always.”
Zhuan Xu silently bowed to the Yellow Emperor and left.
As Zhuan Xu passed by the phoenix tree forest, he stared at the swing and wondered what Xiao Yao was thinking.
Miao Pu ran over and bowed “Miss asks Your Majesty to go see her before you leave, she has something to say to you.”
Zhuan Xu smiled and hurried to Xiao Yao’s room. She picked up a glass of wine and handed one to Zhuan Xu before pouring it on the ground as a toast for Feng Long.
Xiao Yao then said “Before Feng Long went to war, he asked me a favor that I want to help with now, especially since I couldn’t save him.”
Zhuan Xu furrowed his brow and said impatiently “If this is about Xing Yue then I’ve already promised Feng Long.”
Xiao Yao sighed “It’s what I thought, you may have promised Feng Long but in your heart you cannot forgive Xing Yue. And with Feng Long’s death, you’ll only become more and more disgusted with her. Even if you keep your promise, women are very sensitive and Xing Yue especially so, she will be able to sense how you really feel about her.”
Zhuan Xu said coldly “I’ll do what needs to be done with her.”
Xiao Yao said “Actually, Xing Yue and I are somewhat similar. We are both kids who had to carry the burden of our parents. I was left by my mom at Jade Mountain, she was left by her dad at Xuan Yuan Castle. The unhappiness of our childhood left our hearts cold and hard, and when necessary we can be heartless and deadly women. Xing Yue relies on her family but cannot trust them completely, the men around her from her dad, brother, grandfather…..they all have even more important obligations, so she can only rely on herself. So she is nervous, suspicious, stubborn, heartless. I don’t ask that you stop hating her but I hope that each time you see her you will pity her a bit, in the end she wasn’t born this way.”
Zhuan Xu said “Xiao Yao, she is nothing like you! Perhaps you both have cold hearts but you treasure every bit of happiness after the hardship you went through. Whether it’s Master, Ah Nian, Lao Mu, Miao Pu, Left Ear, no matter what they give you, you treasure it and feel grateful. With Xing Yue, her childhood hardship made her greedy, she can’t stop collecting more, no matter what people give her if one doesn’t accede to her wishes then she will toss it all out and feel jilted. Little Zhu Rong and Feng Long did a lot for her. As for me, I gave her the position and power as Empress. She knows it’s a deal with me yet she still wants me to treat her like I treat you. She’s not the only one in this world she suffered!”
Xiao Yao said “I’m saying this to you today not only for Xing Yue, but also for yourself, to treat her well.”
Zhuan Xu said “Don’t worry, I know what to do.”
Xiao Yao said “It’s getting late, you hurry back and I won’t walk you out.”
After Zhuan Xu left, Xiao Yao sat there silently in a daze, and waved Miao Pu off from assisting her.
Xiao Yao used the wine on her fingers to write names on the table of everyone who could have a grudge with the Tu Shan clan: The Fang Feng family, the Sheng Nong tribe, the Chi Sui clan, the Gui Fang clan, Yu Jiang…..Xiao Yao even wrote Xiang Liu’s name down.
Xiao Yao pondered all the possibilities but most were wiped away as not having a good reason to kill Jing. Her hand paused over Xiang Liu’s name.
Xiang Liu – there was a chance that the thief was screaming thief to deflect attention. Killing Jing might not be useful to Xiang Liu directly, but could lead to countless trouble for Zhuan Xu which is good for Gong Gong. And telling Xiao Yao now, she could kill countless powerful people to avenge Jing, which would also be good in causing chaos for Zhuan Xu.
Xiao Yao used her finger to write Xiang Liu’s name over and over – is it you? Is it really you?
Miao Pu glanced at the names and asked “Miss, why are you writing all these names down?”
Xiao Yao smiled and wiped all the names away. Miao Pu shuddered because Xiao Yao’s expression was just like His Majesty’s expression when he ordered Xiao Xiao to kill – a brief glance and death was to follow.
“Left Ear” Xiao Yao called. She sent him to attempt assassinations on her various suspects, not to kill them but to see how quickly they could gather top guards for protection.
Miao Pu looked worried and ran after Left Ear “Hey, you wait up. Let me prepare things for you. Remember, Miss doesn’t want you to kill anyone so don’t get too close. Just make some noise and let them sense danger.” After some time Miao Pu came back in looking hurt.
Xiao Yao laughed “Don’t be worried, Left Ear is smarter and stronger than you think.”
Miao Pu said angrily “I’m not worried about him! Who would worry about that stupid brute of a guy with no manners!”
Xiao Yao shook her head with a wry smile – woman, thy other name is not saying what you really feel.
After half a year of investigating, all the names had been crossed off Xiao Yao’s list, leaving only Xiang Liu. Xiao Yao thought day and night, and kept writing his name over and over on the table. Sometimes she would stare at his name in a daze, asking over and over “did you do it?”
Miao Pu was so worried about Xiao Yao. Sometimes she was like a child abandoned by parents, confused and devastated, other times she was like the sharpest sword without a sheath, coldly cutting anyone down. If it was usual times then His Majesty would sense something was off about Xiao Yao, but with Feng Long’s death he was so busy that all his visits were either short or discussing matters with the Yellow Emperor.
Xiao Xiao asked Miao Pu about Xiao Yao but Miao Pu didn’t dare tell the truth – her master was only Xiao Yao so anything said was betrayal so she said everything was fine as usual.
Xiao Yao laid on her pallet writing Xiang Liu over and over again. Miao Pu finally couldn’t hold it anymore and asked “Miss, why do you write this name every day over and over, asking is it you, or is it not you, all the time?”
“I’m thinking whether he did it or not. And if he did it, how do I confirm it?”
Miao Pu understood now and asked “What if he didn’t do it?”
“If he didn’t do it, then another powerful person did it. But no one is left, I’ve investigated all suspects, so did I miss someone?” Xiao Yao rapped her own head in frustration.
Miao Pu hurriedly stopped her “Miss! Miss!”
Xiao Yao flopped on the pallet and noticed Left Ear behind Miao Pu, his dark eyes were glinting like a predator and staring intently at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao asked “What do you want to say?”
Left Ear angrily said “It’s not Xiang Liu! There is one very powerful person you missed.”
Xiao Yao blinked in shock, there was someone she couldn’t think of that Left Ear knew “Who?”
Xiao Yao bolted up and furiously scowled “What nonsense are you spouting!”
Left Ear looked confused and asked “Did I say anything wrong? His Majesty is not powerful? Then my understanding of power is wrong?”
Xiao Yao’s anger lessened seeing Left Ear like this so she patiently explained “His Majesty is very powerful, yes, and he can be considered the most powerful person in the entire world. But you’re not understanding what I’m trying to find out, His Majesty has nothing to do…..” Xiao Yao glanced at Miao Pu who ran out of the room with her hands over her ears “His Majesty has no conflict with Jing, and even less profit to gain from his death.”
Left Ear coolly said “They have conflict with each other.”
Xiao Yao was so frustrated by now “Do you know them better than me? Do you know what conflict means?”
“I do! Conflict is about fighting for the best home, the best land, the best prey.”
“Fine, so even if conflict is as explained by beasts is true, what is Jing and His Majesty fighting over?”
“Every Spring, aside from fighting over home, land, and prey, male beasts will fight over a female beast both want. The more powerful the beasts, the more violent the fight.”
Xiao Yao finally understood what Left Ear was getting at and scowled “You, you…….”
Left Ear continued “His Majesty and Jing both want you, and if neither is willing to give up then they can only fight it out.”
Xiao Yao slapped the pallet hard “Complete nonsense! You get out!”
Left Ear immediately left and Xiao Yao got off the pallet to gulp down some water “Nonsense! How can people be like beasts!”
Xiao Yao tried to put Left Ear’s words aside but gradually it started to eat away at her when she continued investigating Jing’s death. Zhuan Xu would enter her thoughts and Xiao Yao would immediately try to force it away as impossible. But gradually little details she missed started to emerge and take on a whole new meaning.
She remembered what Zhuan Xu said to Feng Long on his deathbed, that he only ever entrusted his beloved Xiao Yao to Feng Long.
Xiao Yao knew Zhuan Xu didn’t really like Jing, but she thought it was because Jing broke Xiao Yao’s heart before, or Zhuan Xu thought Jing wasn’t good enough for Xiao Yao. At least Zhuan Xu certainly thought Feng Long was much better than Jing, and was more willing for her to marry Feng Long. But know she knew how Zhuan Xu felt about her, many things in the past took on a different meaning, so Xiao Yao went back through her memories and spent the entire night thinking of the past.
When her Dad issued a proclamation that Xiao Yao was no longer the Gao Xing Eldest Princess, her Grandfather wanted to give her the Xuan Yuan last name so she could be the Xuan Yuan Princess and had the most illustrious last name in the entire world. But Zhuan Xu insisted on giving Xiao Yao the Xi Ling last name, and for this the two argued over it. Back then Xiao Yao picked the Xi Ling last name so she was matched to Jing’s level, which is why she never thought about why Zhuan Xu wouldn’t let her become the Xuan Yuan Princess.
On the eve of his marriage to Ah Nian, Zhuan Xu angrily forbade her to go or to congratulate him.
Xiao Yao remembered her conversation with Zhuan Xu that night in Qi Qing Garden.
Around dusk, Zhuan Xu came by Xiao Yue Peak and saw Xiao Yao lazily sprawled on the pallet. He walked over and sat down “What’s wrong? Heard you’ve been down lately, and not eating much.”
Zhuan Xu gently asked “Missing Jing again?”
“Also thinking about a lot of things with you. Remember when we went to sea with Feng Long, Yi Yang, Xing Yue, Hou……and now everyone is gone or dead, and even Jing has left me.”
Zhuan Xu ordered Miao Pu “Get some wine”, and then poured Xiao Yao a cup. Xiao Yao drank the wine and smiled “I know that in your eyes, Feng Long is much better than Jing. You’ve also looked down on Jing, thinking he doesn’t have grander ambition and only thinks about making money for the Tu Shan clan, and he’s weak and too kind when it comes to dealing with Hou and Yi Yang.”
Zhuan Xu remembered what Feng Long said to him before death and felt this jolt in his heart, he gulped down the wine and didn’t deny it “I did think that way.”
Xiao Yao said “You all think that I saved Jing’s life and he just glommed on to me, but in truth it was Jing who saved me.”
Zhuan Xu stared in disbelief at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao continued “When I left Jade Mountain, I was just a kid who knew nothing. Later I encountered all those horrible things, I only glanced over it when telling you and didn’t share all the details. I didn’t forget any of it, it’s just those tens of years of agony and shame are horrible for me to stomach. When I was locked in a cage by the nine-tailed fox, he would beat me and torture me and make me eat all sorts of disgusting things. I lived even worse than an animal. I hated everyone I could possibly hate – I hated them for abandoning me, for making me live a nightmare. I may have survived in the end but my heart and soul was battered. When I met Jing, he was dirtier than then dirtiest beggar. I saved him in a split second’s kindness and didn’t actual care if he lived or died. But when I discovered all the wounds and bruises on his body, it reminded me of myself so many years ago. I suddenly had a strong desire for him to survive, to keep on living. It was like seeing myself get past it, if Jing could survive. I endured the same torture and shaming, so I know how it can turn a person extreme, cold, suspicious, and how hard it is to be someone who is warm, trusting, and kind. But Jing did it! He showed me, proved to me, that no matter how others have treated us, we can choose to still be kind and good and forgiving. Gege, you might see him as weak and indecisive but you tell me, if one day I betrayed you in the worst way, can you just kill me afterwards?”
Zhuan Xu said with certainty “You would never betray me or hurt me!”
“Wasn’t that what Jing thought about Hou? He was Jing’s most trusted beloved older brother. Until Hou did what he did, Jing was like you today, believing completely that Hou would never harm him. I thought Jing would turn cold and suspicious after what Hou did to him, and actions would be decisive and heartless, like both of us have become – but he didn’t! Gege, don’t you think that’s another kind of strength and courage? It appears different than us, but Jing is using his own method to defeat and overcome his suffering.”
Zhuan Xu was silent but he agreed, someone like Jing who was so brilliant and strategic on political matters, how could he not know how to get revenge on Hou.
Xiao Yao said “Jing clearly saw what kind of person I am. He knows I won’t give first, won’t take a chance, so he told me that he will give first, he will take a chance. When he said that, he already did so much for me. But I was touched then yet not believing in him completely. I thought it was possible to do it for a time but impossible to do it forever. People’s hearts change, today’s real is not tomorrow’s reality! But Gege, after what you went through, could you still say that you will give first, you will take a chance? Are you even willing to do that?”
Zhuan Xu had no reply to that.
Xiao Yao added “You and I are the same type of people – we cannot do that! Jing kept trying hard to get close to me, but I never fully trusted him, and in fact always was ready to fully retreat at any moment. I never said it but Jing must’ve known it. Gege, maybe in your eyes I’m perfect but in truth it’s very tiring to be with a person like me!”
Zhuan Xu coolly said “Perhaps he did a lot for you, but all I saw was you spitting up blood because of him and Fang Feng Yi Yang.”
Xiao Yao sighed “Yes, that was Jing’s mistake, but I wasn’t blameless either. I could have handled the matter with him but chose not to do anything, watching from the sidelines and forcing him to prove himself to me. Back then I didn’t know that love can be about one siding giving, staying together requires both sides working at it. We both made mistakes, so we both endured the punishment. It was the first time we both liked someone, so making mistakes is normal. We were simply used by Hou and Yi Yang is all.”
Zhuan Xu kept trying not to think about what Feng Long said before he died but his words gnawed at him. Right now his frustration burst forth and Zhuan Xu impatiently said “Even if Jing is a million ways perfect, what’s the point of telling me this? No matter what, Jing is dead!”
With a bang the wine cup in Xiao Yao’s hand shattered.
Zhuan Xu quickly took her hand and cleaned the shards from her palm while apologizing “I’m sorry, I don’t know what got into me! I wanted to cheer you up so keep on saying what you want to say, I’ll just listen.”
Zhuan Xu’s head was lowered as he carefully bandaged her wound, and it was just a typical wound but Zhuan Xu was so gentle and careful as if Xiao Yao’s palm was half falling off.
Xiao Yao stared at Zhuan Xu as images flashed through her mind – Left Ear talking about male beasts fighting for the female, her telling Zhuan Xu to never let the girl go once he finds the one he loves, Xiang Liu saying with a laugh that Jing’s death appears a brotherly fight on the surface but in truth a very powerful person wanted Jing dead.
Xiao Yao’s tears fell, one after another like pearls, hitting Zhuan Xu’s hand so he raised his head and worriedly asked “What is it? Does it hurt that much?”
Xiao Yao said nothing, only silently crying.
Zhuan Xu frantically asked “Xiao Yao, Xiao Yao, where are you hurting? I’ll summon Yin immediately!”
Xiao Yao asked “Was it you who sent people to Qing Shui Town to help Tu Shan Hou.”
Zhuan Xu froze momentarily before returning to normal, but he was holding Xiao Yao’s hand so she felt the jolt. Zhuan Xu asked “Why are you asking this?”
“I want to know the truth. Zhuan Xu, did you send people to help Tu Shan Hou?”
Zhuan Xu wanted to deny it but his pride wouldn’t allow him to so he said after a pause “It was me!”
“It was you!” Xiao Yao thought she had experienced every type of pain in the world, but who knew the most painful thing in the world was the person you love taking a knife and carving out your heart. Every part of Xiao Yao hurt, her insides, her bones, her skin, her head, none of the pain she experienced in the past could hold a candle to this. She was in such pain she wanted to die. Xiao Yao closed her eyes, unable to look at Zhuan Xu “Get out!”
“Xiao Yao” Zhuan Xu tightly held onto her hand but her strength was shocking as she jerked her hand out of his and left a bloody gash where he just bandaged.
“Get! Out!” Xiao Yao howled and flipped the table, shattering everything on the ground. Her face was ashen and her body teetered, like a leaf about to be consumed by churning waves.
“Xiao Yao, listen to me explain!”
“I want you to get the fuck out!” Xiao Yao’s hand appeared a silver bow and she pulled it back with her still closed. Her tightly bit down on her lips as blood appeared.
Zhuan Xu took steps back until he was at the door but he refused to step out. Outside the door was a world without Xiao Yao, and he wasn’t going to go.
The Yellow Emperor heard the ruckus and rushed over, one look at the two kids and he knew Xiao Yao learned the truth of Jing’s death. He pulled Zhuan Xu out of the room and used his power to guard against Xiao Yao. He yelled at Zhuan Xu “Leave now! Don’t force Xiao Yao to kill you and kill herself!”
The Yellow Emperor pushed Zhuan Xu to the guards and ordered Xiao Xiao “Immediately take His Majesty back to Zhi Jin Summit.”
Xiao Xiao shoved Zhuan Xu onto a winged ride and was just taking off when a bloodcurdling scream came from the room. Zhuan Xu looked back and saw Xiao Yao open her eyes with blood dripping from her lips. Her hands were also stained red with blood, while her dark eyes were ice cold, as if everything was dead to her, including herself.
No matter how hopeless things seemed, Xiao Yao was always by his side. Every time he looked back he saw her resolute and warm gaze on him. But now she was looking at him with the coldest most heartless expression and Zhuan Xu felt like his entire insides were being ripped to shreds. The pain was so stark he couldn’t even keep his seat on the winged ride and he collapsed on the saddle “Go back! I want to go back!” He wanted to order his winged ride to turn back but Xiao Xiao lassoed the winged ride’s neck and forcibly directed it to fly away.
“Xiao Yao!” Zhuan Xu’s scream was willed with endless desolation and utter pleading, trying to convey that he would do anything to protect her and give her happiness, but Xiao Yao could hear none of it. Her grip released and a silver arrow landed in the winged ride killing it instantly. Xiao Xiao pulled Zhuan Xu onto her winged ride with her quick reflexes.
Another arrow flew forward and landed in Zhuan Xu’s hair top knot, freaking everyone out as screams pierced the air. Zhuan Xu’s hair fanned around him as his stared in shock at Xiao Yao, his power was strong enough to avoid the hit but he had done nothing to evade her arrow. Zhuan Xu suddenly saw the image of his mother when she committed suicide, after she stabbed herself with the sword, her body was in grave pain and could barely stand, but she was smiling as she jumped into his father’s grave. So when love was just that deep, one really would rather die than losing it, and now Zhuan Xu finally understood his mother’s choice.
Zhuan Xu tried to shake Xiao Xiao off and faced Xiao Yao’s arrow straight on – if they couldn’t live together then he would rather they died together!
The guards saw Xiao Yao pulling back another arrow and rushed forward to kill her but Zhuan Xu howled “Don’t hurt her! No one dare hurt her! Anyone hurt her will be killed!”
The Yellow Emperor blocked Xiao Yao’s way and grabbed her arrow and said in sorrow “Xiao Yao, Zhuan Xu already made one mistake, you can’t make another!”
Xiao Yao stared at her grandfather as her body swayed “You knew! You’ve all been lying to me!” Zhuan Xu and the Yellow Emperor were her only blood relatives left, and now both betrayed her!
The pain clenched Xiao Yao’s heart, and coupled with her shooting two arrows already, she was completely spent and the bow disappeared in her hand. Her body toppled forward like a log right into the Yellow Emperor’s arms who turned to yell at Zhuan Xu in the sky “You’re still not leaving? Do you really want to force everyone here to die today!”
Zhuan Xu painfully closed his eyes as the wind whistled past his ears, as if carrying with it the moans of pain and agony. Everyone experiences gain and loss in a lifetime, and he had never regretted any choice he made until now, this was the first time he wondered “Was I wrong?”
The Yellow Emperor ordered Xiao Yao medicated with calming pills so by the time she woke it was noon the next day.
She wanted to sit up but was too weak so fell back against her pillow, the result of her using so much power.
Miao Pu assisted Xiao Yao to sit up and Xiao Yao rubbed her injured hand “What happened to me?”
Zhuan Xu’s look of abject pain flashed before her eyes, and it was a look Xiao Yao couldn’t even have dreamed would show up on his face since Zhuan Xu had endured so much already and never broke down like that before. She started to remember yesterday “Did I shoot arrows at Zhuan Xu?
Xiao Yao didn’t know if she wanted Miao Pu to tell her that it was all just a bad dream, but Miao Pu’s face was ashen as she kept her head lowered and said nothing.
It was Zhuan Xu who killed Jing! And the reason was because of her! Xiao Yao painfully closed her eyes, wanting to sleep and never wake up! Actually, she wished that the person she tried to kill yesterday was herself!
Xiao Yao started to laugh loudly and the laughter was more painful to the ears than crying. Miao Pu didn’t know what to do when the Yellow Emperor walked into the room so she quickly retreated outside.
Within one night the Yellow Emperor aged another round. He silently stared at Xiao Yao and didn’t know how to talk to her. He had endless plots and vast commanding power, but he didn’t know right now how to comfort Xiao Yao. He finally said “Zhuan Xu already committed a grave mistake, but if you kill him now it won’t bring Jing back.”
Xiao Yao painfully asked “You both are my closest dearest family, but one killed my husband and the other helped conceal it! What did I do wrong to deserve this?”
The Yellow Emperor sighed “I’m sorry! I tried my best – Zhuan Xu has always been a brilliant child who knows when to give and when to take, I thought he would understand but I underestimated the depths of his love for you. When Jing died, it was already too late so I prayed that you would never find out the truth.”
“Since learning that someone was behind Jing’s death, I kept thinking of how to deal with that person. Killing is too easy, I want to turn that person into my poison guinea pig, to use the most painful deadly methods to torture and torment.” Xiao Yao laughed sorrowfully “But that person is Zhuan Xu, the person I want to device a million tortures on turned out to be Zhuan Xu!”
The Yellow Emperor pleaded “A dead person cannot be brought back to life, if you kill Zhuan Xu now you will send the world into chaos and what will it bring to you?”
“Revenge for Jing!”
“Will revenge make you happier?”
Xiao Yao said decisively “Yes, revenge will make me happy!” All she thought about yesterday was killing Zhuan Xu and then she would commit suicide and end it all!
“You know the answer, whether it makes you happy or sad. I want you to think carefully about this, and about who you are? Your mother is Princess Xuan Yuan Ba, who died in battle for her kingdom. You father is Qi Yo, who never gave up on protecting Sheng Nong even to his last breath. Your adopted father is the White Emperor who gave up power for the wellbeing of his people. If for your own selfish reason you send the world into chaos and disarray, then you don’t deserve to be their daughter!”
Xiao Yao coldly scoffed “Then I don’t deserve to be their daughter and I don’t care! You guys are all great heroes with legacies, willing to shoulder the responsibility of the world, but that is your choice! I just want to be a selfish normal person, find a little corner of the world to live with my own personal happiness and sorrows. Wise and sage Yellow Emperor, if you want to keep me from getting revenge on Zhuan Xu then you best kill me now! For the good of your world you need to be heartless once again!”
It had been thousands of years since anyone had dared speak to him thusly, but the Yellow Emperor knew that nothing more could be said at this time. He shuffled to the door before abruptly turning back “You don’t need to think of the good of the people but you should consider Jing. You know his personality the best, would he want you to do this!”
Xiao Yao coldly retorted “You should say that to Zhuan Xu, what did Jing do wrong that he had to kill Jing!”
The Yellow Emperor sighed and left the room all stooped over.
The room fell into silence and Xiao Yao’s tears finally fell on her pillow.
Days later, Xiao Yao was all recovered which was when she discovered that all her medicines and pills were gone. All her equipment to make concoctions were also removed, as were the supplies, and even the herb gardens planted in the valley were plucked clean.
The guards kept watch over her 24/7, never leaving Xiao Yao’s side or even looking away from her for a second. Miao Pu and Left Ear were also placed under tight surveillance. Xiao Yao couldn’t even leave Xiao Yue Peak, much less sneak into the even more highly fortified Zhi Jin Summit. All she was allowed to go was to the phoenix tree forest. Xiao Yao was effectively locked up by the Yellow Emperor, but she didn’t try to leave or even have an argument with him. Every day she wandered around in a daze, sitting on the swing in the phoenix tree forest for hours on end.
The Yellow Emperor tried talking to Xiao Yao every day but she no longer argued back with him, instead only listening silently with no response or reaction. The Yellow Emperor had no idea what Xiao Yao was thinking.
When Miao Pu came to clear the table, she saw the meal remained untouched and pleaded “Miss, please eat something!”
“Miao Pu, sit down.”
Miao Pu nervously sat down when Xiao Yao asked “Miao Pu, do you like Left Ear?”
Miao Pu was taken aback and stiffly responded “Why is Miss asking this?”
Xiao Yao said “Left Ear’s life before us was very very tough, much worse than you can ever imagine. He only somewhat knows the matters of life so you have to be extra patient with him, and take good care of him. Don’t let him get taken advantage of, he’s really one-track minded so if he gets set on something he will see it through to the end no matter what. You have to look out for him so he doesn’t go astray. Left Ear is actually very simply – he just wants a home, a spouse, and a simple free life.”
Xiao Yao’s tone was sincere and warm so Miao Pu’s shyness went away “I’m an orphan who was picked by His Majesty to train as a guard because I had the talent. But I’m not like Xiao Xiao jiejie and them, as accomplished and capable. I don’t dare wish for riches and power, all I want is a family. I will take good care of Left Ear, I won’t let anyone take advantage of him!”
Xiao Yao looked out the window “Left Ear!”
Left Ear swung inside from the roof and sat down on the window sill as Miao Pu gasped and turned beet red “You were eavesdropping!”
“Not eavesdropping.” Left Ear’s pale face was placid but his ears were pinkish red.
Xiao Yao said “Years ago I promised you food to eat, a place to live, and to help you find a wife. Do you like Miao Pu as a wife?”
Left Ear glanced at Miao Pu before nodding his head, still placid but his ears were turning redder and redder.
“Miss! You….you….” Miao Pu ran out of the room with her hands over her face.
Xiao Yao said to Left Ear “Miao Pu is often really bossy but she just doesn’t know how to express her concern and affection for you. I know you don’t explain yourself to others but if she’s going to be your wife then you need to be good to her. Try to explain things to her, even a simple “I’ll be careful” will make her feel better.”
Left Ear mulled it over “A wife is to be good to?” He seemed to understand and nodded at Xiao Yao.
Xiao Yao called out the door “Miao Pu, I want some water!”
Miao Pu came in bearing bowls of water but kept her head down not looking at Left Ear. Xiao Yao handed a bamboo canister to Left Ear and said to both “I can’t leave Xiao Yue Peak right now so you two need to deliver a letter for me. At the end of an alley in Xuan Yuan Castle is a blacksmith shop with no sign. Inside is a white haired good looking old man blacksmith, you guys hand this letter to him and then do as he instructs, got it?”
Miao Pu asked “Why do we have to deliver the letter together?”
Xiao Yao’s voice was stern “This is a very important matter, I’m sending you both for my reason because Left Ear can’t do it alone.”
Miao Pu hesitated “But Miss will be alone if we both leave.”
Xiao Yao smiled “There are so many servants here, plus with my Grandfather around there won’t be anyone who mistreats me.”
Left Ear stared at Xiao Yao, clearly not going to do as told, so Xiao Yao said “If I don’t leave Xiao Yue Peak then no one can do anything to me. Miao Pu, am I right?”
Miao Pu nodded to Left Ear “The Yellow Emperor has restricted the freedom of Miss not just to protect His Majesty but also to protect Miss. A lot of people saw her shoot arrows at His Majesty and some crazy loyal person might do something rash and try to take Miss out.”
Left Ear took the canister and said to Miao Pu “Let’s go!”
Miao Pu asked Xiao Yao “Will the guards let us off the mountain?”
Xiao Yao said “Just tell the truth, you are delivering a letter to a blacksmith in Xuan Yuan Castle. Grandfather will let you go.” Actually, Grandfather would love to send Left Ear far far away.
Miao Pu said “Miss, please take care of yourself. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”
Xiao Yao watched them leave and silently sighed. She had wanted to be their secret matchmaker and watch over them for longer so Miao Pu and Left Ear could take their time to develop, but things were beyond her control and she didn’t have much time left now. Xiao Yao silently wished them well, for Left Ear and Miao Pu to support and take care of each other – Left Ear and Miao Pu, fare thee well! I wish you what Xiang Liu couldn’t have, what Jing and I couldn’t have, you guys have to be happy forever.
The Yellow Emperor had removed all the medicines and herbs from Xiao Yao’s presence but she was one who never made the same mistake twice. After the last assassination attempt, she found a way to store medicine that wouldn’t be misplaced. In jewelry, in clothing, in accessories, she carefully prepared it so Zhuan Xu and the Yellow Emperor wouldn’t worry about her, who knew she would be using it now against them.
Zhuan Xu had not appeared before Xiao Yao but she was certain he came by Xiao Yue Peak. The Yellow Emperor strictly kept them apart but he didn’t know that children had their own secrets the adults never knew. Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu grew up together, eating and sleeping side by side, so they had their own way of communicating with each other.
One a full moon night, Xiao Yao carried white lotus basket and hummed an ancient tune as she strolled to the phoenix tree garden. The guards didn’t try to stop her, only silently following.
When Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu arrived on Sheng Nong Mountain, there were no phoenix trees here and it was Zhuan Xu who hand planted each tree on Zhi Jin Summit and Xiao Yue Peak. After a hundred years, the trees had grown into forests and the flowers bloomed red all over the hillside like vibrant hues of morning glory.
Xiao Yao strolled in the phoenix tree forest as flower petals fell around her. She would catch some in her hands and place it in the basket and soon the basket was full of red phoenix flowers.
The red flowers were even more vivid under the bright moonlight – if the phoenix flower under the sun was of a brash energetic girl, then under the moonlight she was deep in thought. Xiao Yao stepped heavily like she did as a kid, the leaves crunching loudly under her feet.
Xiao Yao stopped when she reached the swing.
It hadn’t been used in a while but Zhuan Xu’s power kept the area clean. Xiao Yao sat down on the swing and admired the view while picking phoenix leaves from the basket to suck the honey out.
The sweetness of the flower honey spread in her mouth and Xiao Yao remembered her childhood. Zhuan Xu didn’t like eating flower honey and would spend his mornings practicing his powers, but he would always pick flower petals for her at the crack of dawn only because she once said that the flower honey at the moment of sunrise was the sweetest. When she was locked in a cage, every morning when she woke she felt a sweetness in her throat, dreaming that the phoenix flower was so close, that even if her mom and dad didn’t want her anymore her Zhuan Xu gege still wanted her.
Zhuan Xu walked under the moonlight and traversed the phoenix flowers towards her.
His black robe with gold thread emphasized his refined features and elegant demeanor, like a gentle scholar out on a stroll, a world wanderer sampling the joys of the living. But meeting his eyes would see the power in its depth, the authority of deciding life and death with one word.
Xiao Yao felt unsettled, like Zhuan Xu was suddenly unfamiliar to her, or maybe it was that she never looked at him carefully before. All this time Zhuan Xu was Zhuan Xu to her, they laughed when happy, he carried her when she tired, he teased her when she pouted, he was a shoulder for her to lean on when she was in need, he could handle everything when she was in peril.
In Xiao Yao’s heart, Zhuan Xu was the closest person to her, so much that she didn’t differentiate between him and her. If he wanted something then she would give her life to help him achieve it. From Five Gods Mountain to Xuan Yuan Mountain, from Xuan Yuan Mountain to Sheng Nong Mountain, whatever she had Zhuan Xu could have it, including her life. She always thought Zhuan Xu treated her the same way, that if she wanted something Zhuan Xu would get it for her, that if she treasured something Zhuan Xu would treasure it too.
But it was just her wishful thinking! So was she simply wrong about Zhuan Xu, or had he changed?
It was mere days since they last saw each other but it felt like a lifetime. Zhuan Xu tentatively called out “Xiao Yao!”
Xiao Yao smiled “You know I want to kill you yet you still came alone?”
Zhuan Xu asked “If you weren’t certain I would come, then why wait here?”
Xiao Yao coolly said “I thought I knew you well, but clearly I don’t anymore.”
Zhuan Xu’s eyes reflected his desolation and he asked “Want to swing?”
Zhuan Xu lightly pushed Xiao Yao and she raised her head to look at the phoenix flowers above falling.
In the quiet forest, a silent young man pushed a silent young woman on a swing, and the same memory played in their minds……
Under the fire red phoenix tree.
A swing was going higher and higher. The little girl on the swing called out “Gege! Gege! Look at me, you look at me!”
The boy under the swing looked up with his eyes lit up in a smile.
Under the fire red phoenix tree, the boy had grown up into a tall strapping young man. The little girl had grown up into a beautiful vivacious young woman. The man looked at the girl as she swung, she looked down at him, the two conversing naturally and casually without a thought to the life and death choice ahead.
The hundreds of years had taken away the laughter of their childhood, but it gave them confidence and strength. No matter what they encounter or face, they would battle to the death for a way out.
From childhood until now, they had countless different moments and memories, but never a moment like this.
The swing of their childhood was like a rainbow, bright and untainted. The swing of adulthood was the sun surrounded by dark ominous clouds, they were each other’s sunlight. And the swing right now was the darkness of the night before a storm, with no light and only unending darkness ahead.
Zhuan Xu’s hands got tired but he didn’t want to stop. He knew this was the last time he would swing with Xiao Yao and he didn’t want to stop. Even if it was unending darkness he still wanted to keeping pushing her on the swing.
Xiao Yao placed the basket before him “I don’t know if I hate you, or I hate myself. Likely I hate both! Because I’ve always been certain that even if you make a mistake I would shoulder half the consequences with you.”
Zhuan Xu took a flower petal and sucked out the honey.
Xiao Yao asked “Is it sweet?”
Zhuan Xu said “Very sweet.”
Xiao Yao ate a flower “When Grandmother died, we vowed before my mom, your mom, Auntie Ju Li, we promised them that we would always take care of each other, together and never apart. I did it, but you didn’t! Gege, you didn’t do it!”
Zhuan Xu ate a flower “I know I didn’t do it, but it’s not because I helped kill Jing. It’s because I was wrong from the very beginning! I should have never used you as a chess piece. I shouldn’t have given you to Jing in order to get the help of the Tu Shan and Chi Sui clans.”
Xiao Yao said “Grandfather keeps trying to lecture me these days about the greater good but I’m not my mom, my heart is very small and can only fit the people I care about, it doesn’t fit the entire world. I used to pretend I cared but that’s only because you cared. But now I hate you, so none of that matters to me at all!”
Zhuan Xu smiled “None of that needs to matter to you!”
Xiao Yao said “That’s why it doesn’t matter what Grandfather says, I still have to kill you because you killed Jing. Do you understand?”
Zhuan Xu smiled and patted Xiao Yao’s head “I understand!”
Xiao Yao handed Zhuan Xu a phoenix flower “After I kill you then I will die with you.”
Zhuan Xu said “That’s good, I won’t rest easy leaving you behind. The people who hate Qi Yo, all the women on Zhi Jin Summit, Yu Jiang and those loyal subordinates……..I don’t feel safe leaving you to face them so I’ll keep you by my side.”
Xiao Yao ate a flower “I had thought up all the cruelest ways to torture the person who killed Jing, but I won’t use it on you. I thought up this way, it’s sweet and won’t hurt at all.”
Zhuan Xu agreed “It’s sweet.” He wanted to push her on the swing but had no strength anymore. He slowly sat down and patted the ground “Sit down, otherwise you’ll fall off later and it’ll hurt.”
Xiao Yao stumbled off the swing and Zhuan Xu pulled her into his arms. She wanted to push him away but had no strength so nestled in his embrace.
Xiao Yao’s body had no strength so it was like when they were young, Zhuan Xu tightly held Xiao Yao in his arms. He asked “You deal with poison all the time, how come the effect is faster on you?”
“I took the poison earlier than you, when I was sitting on the swing waiting for you I already poisoned myself. Actually, you shouldn’t have come. You really shouldn’t have come. When I left you the note I was hoping you wouldn’t come……” Xiao Yao’s tears fell.
Zhuan Xu wiped away her tears “If I didn’t come then you planned to die alone under the swing? You want me to see with my own eyes the result of what I did? Xiao Yao, you are so cruel!”
Xiao Yao laughed “My Grandfather is the Yellow Emperor, my father is Qi Yo, and my older brother is Zhuan Xu, each of you is one more vicious than the next. How could you expect me to be kind?”
Zhuan Xu laughed “You’re right! How could a rabbit come from a cave of wolves!”
Xiao Yao smiled as her tears continued to fall.
Zhuan Xu softly asked “Xiao Yao, if Jing killed me, would you punish Jing this way for me?”
“Jing would never hurt you! He knows how important you are to me. He would rather endure pain himself than to put me in such pain…..” Xiao Yao’s voice got softer and softer.
Zhuan Xu held Xiao Yao tightly and kissed her forehead “Xiao Yao, I’m sorry! I was wrong! I was wrong!” From childhood until now he did everything and never regretted anything until now.
Zhuan Xu’s tears fell and Xiao Yao saw it and smiled “Gege, Zhuan Xu…….I……..I forgive you! It’s too hard to hate you…….worse than cutting my own heart to pieces……I forgive you…….”
Zhuan Xu cried “Xiao Yao, tell me! If we could do it all over again and I held you close after we reunited on Five Gods Mountain, with no chance for Jing to get close to you, would you have picked me?”
Xiao Yao was about to pass out but Zhuan Xu’s words took her back to the very beginning and it was as clear as yesterday “When I was locked up in the cage by the nine-tailed fox, all I could think of was you…..all I missed was you….when you didn’t recognize me, I still used my life to save you…….back then…….there was no Jing yet………..” Xiao Yao’s voice trailed off.
Zhuan Xu cried out “Xiao Yao! Xiao Yao!………..” but he could feel only silence as her breathing ceased.
On Cao Yun Peak, they played during the day and slept in each other’s arms at night. They buried and said farewell to their loved ones, they endured the pain together……….Xiao Yao said her heart had turned cold into stone, but he remained the most precious treasure that Xiao Yao kept deep in her heart, in the softest most secure place. When Jing said he would give first and trust first to try and win Xiao Yao’s heart, Xiao Yao had already done the same for Zhuan Xu. She didn’t like politics and care about the greater good, but she accompanied him back to Xuan Yuan Mountain and always protected him…..
He always thought Jing wasn’t good enough for Xiao Yao, couldn’t treat her right, and only made her sad. But what about himself?
Zhuan Xu kissed Xiao Yao as his tears splashed on her face, but she would never embrace him back or comfort him “Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m here with you.”
If he could do it again, he would put Xiao Yao first, he would consider what she wanted and not what he wanted. But it was too late now.
Zhuan Xu held Xiao Yao tightly in his arms with his forehead pressed against her forehead, and slowly closed his eyes.