As the journey of Lost You Forever comes to a close, with it all the various narrative threads are tied up one by one. This is the second to last chapter of the novel, and each chapter translating has been a laborious love affair for me, the love of a well-written tightly constructed yarn and the love of an unforgettable fictional romance. Xiao Yao was loved by many even if she started out feeling unloved by all, but her strength and resilience many times needed saving as the story hurtled forward and her larger than life background threatened to consume her. Jing came back in the last chapter and his return promises readers the happy ending that may please some while upsetting others, not because Jing isn’t a wonderful guy who is a good fit for Xiao Yao, it’s just that someone else may be an even better fit but that’s never going to be explored.
Chapter 50 – Hair Knotted With No Doubts:
When Xiao Yao brought Jing to go see the Royal Mother, they saw a white bird perched on the peach blossom branch outside. Xiao Yao said to Jing “This is Lie Yang.”
Jing bowed respectfully to Lie Yang who took stock of Jing before saying “The Royal Mother is awake. Go inside!”
Jing and Xiao Yao entered the residence and saw the Royal Mother laying on the pallet with Sir Bi and Shui Hong beside her. Jing walked forward to bow “Jing respectfully greets the Royal Mother.”
The Royal Mother coldly stared at him while drinking her wine, acting nonchalant.
Jing kneeled down “Xiao Yao’s mother entrusted Xiao Yao to Your Highness before she went off to war. Your Highness raised Xiao Yao for seventy years, and afterwards continued to look after her. It’s proper for Xiao Yao to do your bidding but Xiao Yao is my wife and I cannot allow her to take over Jade Mountain.”
The Royal Mother coldly huffed “You think being the Royal Mother of Jade Mountain is a job to take one day and discard the next?””
Xiao Yao said down beside the Royal Mother and grabbed her arm “My good surrogate mother, can you stop tormenting him for fun!”
The Royal Mother sighed and barked at Jing “Get up! When a girl is grown she flies the coop, there is nothing to keep her anyways!”
“Thank Your Highness!” Jing bowed his head three times before getting up.
Shui Hong asked “If Xiao Yao isn’t going to take over Jade Mountain, who will be the next Royal Mother?”
The Royal Mother glanced at Sir Bi who spoke “I already sent a carrier bird to notify Bai Zhi, the ceremony can delay a few days with no problem.”
“Bai Zhi?” Shui Hong thought and sighed “She is very suitable indeed.”
The Royal Mother said “Since you don’t object, then so be it! Send the notice to the world during the succession ceremony that Bai Zhi will become the next Royal Mother, ruler of Jade Mountain.”
“Yes!” Shui Hong bowed before leaving.
The Royal Mother asked Xiao Yao and Jing “What are your plans next?”
Jing looked at Xiao Yao who smiled back “Your Highness said that where one’s heart is at ease then that is home. The world is so vast, we will find a place for us away from it all.”
The Royal Mother nodded “If one’s heart is at peace then anywhere can become a home. You guys pack up and leave then!”
Xiao Yao spoke up “I don’t want to leave! I want…….”
“I know, you want to see me pass on.”
“Your Highness, I……”
The Royal Mother raised her hand up “You all want to be with me when I die but I don’t want you to see me die.”
Xiao Yao and Sir Bi could not contain their sadness as Xiao Yao said “I want to stay a few more days.”
“Whatever you want! I’m tired and you all…….” The Royal Mother was about to send them away when Sir Bi coughed slightly to remind her, so the Royal Mother suddenly changed topics “You guys know there is a voodoo bug in Xiao Yao’s body?’
Xiao Yao’s expression dimmed so Jing replied “We know.”
The Royal Mother said “When Xiao Yao was unconscious, I discovered the voodoo bug in her and broke the spell. You guys don’t have a problem with that, right?”
Jing was ecstatic and stuttered a bit “You mean, Your Highness got rid of the voodoo bug from Xiao Yao’s body?”
The Royal Mother coldly stared “Are you doubting me?”
Jing quickly said “No! No! I’m just too happy is all!” The Royal Mother was aloof and didn’t say much but whatever she said was always true, so if she said she broke the voodoo spell then clearly it was now broken.
Xiao Yao’s heart was jumbled – when Xiang Liu tried to assassinate Zhuan Xu and killed Feng Long, she already repaid all her debt to Xiang Liu by giving her blood. She severed all ties with him then, but hearing now that the final last bit of connection between them was broken when she wasn’t even aware of it, she couldn’t figure out what this sense of loss meant. She mocked herself “He always saw you as just a chess piece, what’s there to feel bereft about? Are you sad about his cold heartlessness?”
The Royal Mother wearily closed her eyes and waved her hand so Jing and Xiao Yao took their leave and Sir Bi went out as well.
Inside the peach blossom forest, Sir Bi asked “Things happened so quickly to ask what happened, but who saved you, Jing, and why so long before coming back?”
Jing explained about the mercouple in the East Sea and Sir Bi’s mind roiled after hearing it. The Nine-headed demon is the supreme power in the ocean, totally able to command the merpeople to do his bidding. And finding merpeople who could not communicate in the human language, and who lived in the vast ocean, Xiang Liu was cruel and brilliant in saving Jing without ever leaving a way to be discovered.
Xiao Yao asked “Ah Bi, what’s wrong? Why is your expression so strange?”
Sir Bi quickly covered up “Nothing!”
Two days later, Bai Zhi arrived on Jade Mountain and the succession ceremony went off without a hitch. The proclamation went out to the world that a new Royal Mother had taken over Jade Mountain.
The next morning Xiao Yao went to pay a visit to the Royal Mother but Shui Hong barred her outside.
“Ah Mei has passed.”
It took Xiao Yao a moment to realize that Ah Mei was the Royal Mother’s worldly name.
Shui Hong said “Don’t be sad, she passed peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face. I think she saw the people she wanted to see in her dream.”
Shui Hong said to Jing “You’ve stayed three days on Jade Mountain, please depart before sundown today.”
Jing pulled a wobbly Xiao Yao away as she wondered if letting go of all worries was what allowed the Royal Mother to pass so quickly.
Without the Royal Mother around, Xiao Yao and Jing had no reason to stay on Jade Mountain so made plans to depart.
Lie Yang and Sir Bi came to send them off and she asked them “What are your plans?”
Lie Yang and Sir Bi glanced at each other before Sir Bi said “We are used to living on Jade Mountain and plan to stay. What about you two?”
Xiao Yao glanced at Jing “We haven’t discussed it but will likely go to Qing Qiu first to handle matters.”
Sir Bi said “Please let me know when a wedding date is set.”
Jing replied “Of course!”
Xiao Yao said “Then…..we’re off now.”
Sir Bi said to Jing “Please take good care of Xiao Yao.”
Jing bowed low as if to an elder “I will take good care of Xiao Yao.”
Lie Yang didn’t give a fig so accepted the bow but Sir Bi dodged it, demon class barriers were strict and the nine-tailed fox was the king of the fox tribe. When Sir Bi was around Jing, he used his strong powers to tamp down the instinctive to be subservient to Jing.
Xiao Yao and Jing arrived in Qing Qiu late at night. Xiao Yao asked “Want to rest before going to the Tu Shan residence?”
“Go now so to not alert as many people.”
When Xiao Yao and Jing appeared before Hu Zhen and Jing Ye, both were so startled they couldn’t speak. Jing smiled “What? Not happy to see me?”
Jing Ye collapsed on the ground in tears “Master! Master……..”
Hu Zhen composed himself and bowed “Clan leader, please sit!”
Jing laughed “Call my name, I’m not the Clan leader anymore!”
Xiao Yao helped Jing Ye up “What’s with the tears? Aren’t you happy Jing is back?”
Jing lightly coughed as he remembered someone wailing and sobbing for hours a few days ago and shot a glance at Xiao Yao.
Jing asked Hu Zhen “How is Zhen Er?”
“Good, very good!” Hu Zhen recounted all that happened to make Tu Shan Zhen the new clan leader and finished “The new Clan leader may be the son of Tu Shan Hou and Fang Feng Yi Yang, but he was raised by you so has your bearing, I believe he will be a great clan leader.”
Jing Ye added “We decided to tell him the truth because of all the rumors being circulated and he was bound to hear it. We handed him the letter from Fang Feng Yi Yang early and after learning his birth secret he was so devastated for some time. But he composed himself and accepted that his birth parents were in the wrong and still calls you dad and refers to Hou as his uncle.”
Jing said “Death ends everything so when you guys have time tell him stories of my brother when we were young and how close we were. Let him understand that my brother had his own reason for doing what he did, and that it was his grandmother who was wrong in the first.”
Jing Ye hated Hou so much but now that Jing was back she was able to start letting go “I will do so.”
Hu Zhen saw through the underlying request “Why not you tell him? Are you planning to leave Qing Qiu?”
Jing smiled “Tonight I came to say my farewells.”
Jing Ye started crying again as Hu Zhen asked “Where are you going?”
Jing glanced at Xiao Yao “I go wherever Xiao Yao goes.”
Hu Zhen held back saying more, now the Tu Shan clan was stable and the road that Jing and Xiao Yao took was so long and arduous.
Jing handed two jade cannisters to Hu Zhen “One is for Zhen Er and the other to the clan elders.”
Hu Zhen took it carefully “Don’t worry, we will protect and serve the clan leader until he is all grown up.”
Jing held Xiao Yao’s hand as they stood up together.
Jing Ye cried “Master, you…..you….”
Jing laughed “You’re married now, why so quick to cry still? Hu Zhen, come take care of your wife!”
Jing turned around to leave but Jing Ye cried out “Master please wait!” Jing Ye knew that she would never see Jing again after tonight “Master, your servant I will not be able to serve you anymore, please accept three bows from me.”
Jing Ye kneeled down and cried as she bowed her head three times to the ground. The gratitude of being taken in when she was child, the years of education and consideration…….without Jing she would not be the person she was today.
After accepting Jing Ye’s three bows, Jing smiled at Hu Zhen with a nod and stepped out of the room with Xiao Yao in hand.
Jing Ye rushed out in tears “Master…….Master………” All she saw was a bright moon in the dark sky and a white crane flying away with two figures on its back. It few higher and farther until it vanished in a gust of wind.
The second day around noon, Xiao Yao and Jing arrived in Xuan Yuan Castle.
The White Emperor was not at Xuan Yuan Mountain so Xiao Yao went directly to the blacksmith shop in the castle to look for him. Jing stopped her “Let’s find an inn to wash up first and rest a night, tomorrow go pay our respects to the White Emperor.”
Xiao Yao asked “Why?”
Jing hesitated before saying in a lower voice “It’s better to tidy up before going to see my father-in-law.”
Xiao Yao held back her laugh and nodded “Good idea, rushing this whole time my young master is undoubtedly not looking his best.”
Jing grabbed Xiao Yao’s arm and rushed into the inn.
After the two rested up, the next morning they put on their best and headed to the blacksmith shop at the end of a dingy alley.
It was already bustling this early in the morning in the big streets but quiet and desolate headed into the alley. Jing knocked on the door and Miao Pu’s voice called out “Who is it? Wanting services this early in this morning, come back later!”
Xiao Yao shushed Jing and kept pounding loudly on the door. She thought Miao Pu would rush out angrily but a figure descended from the roof flying towards Xiao Yao and Jing and startled them instead. Jing pulled Xiao Yao into his arms and readied to repeal the attack but Xiao Yao stopped him “Left Ear! Stop!”
The figure halted and Jing pulled back his power. Before Xiao Yao could introduce the two, Miao Pu came rushing out sobbing as she grabbed Xiao Yao who had to comfort her “There there, don’t cry……”
After some time Miao Pu stopped crying and looked up and noticed Jing. She yelped loudly in fear and rushed towards Left Ear while pulling Xiao Yao with her. Xiao Yao was pushed behind Left Eat along with Miao Pu who asked Jing “Who…..who are you?”
Jing smiled “Who do you think I am?”
“Master Jing? You’re alive?”
Xiao Yao rapped Miao Pu on the head “How could you have ever been a secret bodyguard, being such a goose like this!”
Xiao Yao walked back to Jing and held his hand before saying to Left Ear “This is Jing.”
Left Ear had already checked out Jing from head to toe “You’re not dead. Good.” He turned and walked inside with no intention of making small talk.
Xiao Yao made a face at Jing “You don’t need to make introductions to guess who that is.”
They walked inside and saw the White Emperor sitting at his chair. He didn’t raise an eyebrow to see Jing, much less freak out.
Jing and Xiao Yao walked up to him and kneeled down to bow three times. Jing said “I came back late and caused worry for Your Majesty.”
The White Emperor nodded his head “No worry for me, it’s all on Xiao Yao.”
Jing nervously replied “I understand.”
The White Emperor said “As long as you understand, you can take your time making it up to her.”
Jing’s nervousness dissipated “I will do so!”
“Both get up now!”
Xiao Yao saw the White Emperor continuing to ignore her and giggled “Dad, what skills did you teach Left Ear?”
The White Emperor coldly said “You bank on me not being able to leave Xuan Yuan Mountain and try to fool me. Explain now why you send those two to me, and beg me to keep them by my side for ten years. Why did Zhuan Xu suddenly go to Yang Valley? And why did Zhuan Xu say you’re not feeling well? Within a month, Zhuan Xu went to Jade Mountain twice, what’s with such unusual behavior?”
Xiao Yao opened her mouth but couldn’t say anything. She didn’t want her dad to know what Zhuan Xu did, that was between her and Zhuan Xu and even her closest dad she didn’t want him to know.
Jing understood and stepped in to help “Xiao Yao, you go catch up with Left Ear and Miao Pu, let me talk privately with His Majesty.”
“Okay!” Xiao Yao ran off with Left Ear and Miao Pu like a burden was lifted, heading to the kitchen to chat with Miao Pu as she prepared breakfast.
When breakfast was ready, the talk was over and the White Emperor wasn’t ignoring Xiao Yao anymore. Xiao Yao tugged on Jing’s sleeve and whispered “What did you talk about with my dad??
Jing smiled and said nothing while ladling a bowl of soup for Xiao Yao.
She held it in until after breakfast when the White Emperor went to greet a customer. Xiao Yao hurriedly asked Jing “Did you tell my dad the truth?”
“Of course not! You don’t want people to know so I wouldn’t have said it.”
Xiao Yao sighed in relief “That’s good.” But then she mused “If you didn’t tell him then why is he not pressing me about what happened.”
“I told His Majesty that everything that has happened is in the past. Since you and I are both safe and sound today, then there is no need to dig into the past to find out everything. What’s important is working towards securing a peaceful happy future.”
“Just that and my dad stopped digging for the truth?”
Jing said “His Majesty is now just a blacksmith, but in the past he ruled a nation and there is much he must have already figured out. He was pressing you back there not because he really wanted to get to the truth, but because he was so hurt that so much happened and you never thought to ask him for help.”
“Didn’t I entrust Miao Pu and Left Ear to him?”
Jing stared at Xiao Yao and said nothing.
Xiao Yao lowered her head sheepishly “I know Dad, Lie Yang, and Ah Bi are all so good to me, but this is between me and Zhuan Xu and I don’t want anyone involved!”
Jing leaned down to gently kiss Xiao Yao on the forehead “We’re not blaming you, we’re just so pained to see you this way.”
Xiao Yao embraced Jing’s waist “I know.”
The two quietly embraced for some time before Xiao Yao asked “If you got Dad to stop being mad at me with one sentence, what else were you two talking about for so long?”
Jing smiled “I thought you wouldn’t ask. What do you think would lead us two guys talking for so long.”
Xiao Yao furrowed her brows “I’m getting a bad vibe from this. Fess up and tell me what you talked about?”
“We talked about when I can start called His Majesty Dad.”
Xiao Yao’s face turned beet red but she kept a straight face and asked “So did you guys reach a conclusion?”
Jing caressed Xiao Yao’s cheek and said also in a straight face “This color is certainly pretty but isn’t enough to be bridal makeup by itself.”
Xiao Yao couldn’t hold it in anymore and burst out laughing, holding her face in one hand and smacking Jing with the other. “Tell me! If you don’t tell me I’m leaving, who cares to hear it anyway!”
Jing grabbed Xiao Yao’s hand “I have no parents, no power or wealth, other than my body I have nothing else. You only have a few relatives left now, so after talking with your dad we set the wedding for four days hence. It’s an auspicious time and the small ceremony will take place on Cao Yun Peak. Do you like that?”
Xiao Yao’s eyes shone with tears as she nodded “Yes!”
Four days later, on Xuan Yuan Mountain.
The wild flowers and overgrown grass blanketed the side of the mountain where six graves were placed neatly.
Xiao Yao ambled along the curvy path up the side of the mountain, standing in the middle of the brilliantly hued wild flowers to stare at the graves in the distance before gathering up the courage to continuing walking there.
Xiao Yao kneeled before Lei Zhu’s grave “Grandmother, I’m here to see you.”
She cleaned the grave while talking “Grandmother, I’m getting married. I wanted to bring him here but Dad says I can’t see him before the ceremony so I’ll bring him tomorrow to see you.”
Xiao Yao grew silent as she plucked the weeds and slowly her tears began to fall. Since she was a child, every trip to the graves was with Zhuan Xu. With someone beside her to help share in the pain, even sorrow seemed less heavy. This was her first trip here solo and so many memories from the past came flooding back……
When her grandmother was dying, her mother and her eldest aunt sat beside the bed day and night. Auntie Ju Li had her sleep on the same pallet as Zhuan Xu so she could watch them more conveniently. Xiao Yao had a vague understanding of death but she had never experienced it in person before so didn’t have any feelings about it. But Zhuan Xu had seen his mother commit suicide right in front of him, and he was raised beside his grandmother since he was born, so his sadness was far greater than hers. He was always afraid that grandmother would be dead when he was sleeping so he couldn’t sleep soundly. Sometimes he woke up unconsciously, other times deliberately, and Xiao Yao would wake with him and got used to it. Every time he woke up, she would do as her mother did with her and comfort Zhuan Xu to go back to sleep. She would embrace him and softly pat his back, croon a lullaby to him even as her eyes were closed because she was so tired.
That night Zhuan Xu woke up again and got dressed before waking Xiao Yao “Grandmother is near death.” He got her robe to dress her.
Xiao Yao was so sleepy she curled into the blanket “It’s just a nightmare, I’ll sing to you.”
Zhuan Xu said “Xiao Yao, be good! Stop sleeping and get dressed to go see Grandmother one last time so she doesn’t worry. In the future……” Zhuan Xu started crying.
Xiao Yao scrambled up and got dressed “Don’t cry, don’t cry, I’m up now.” Xiao Yao brushed the tears from Zhuan Xu’s face “Look at you, such a crybaby, I never cry!”
Zhuan Xu awkwardly turned his head and Xiao Yao quickly added “Only you know, I know, the sky knows, and the ground knows, I will never tell anyone else!”
Just as Xiao Yao got dressed Auntie Ju Li rushed into the room intending to wake the kids and was shocked to see them standing hand-in-hand by the door. She didn’t think more of it and grabbed them both “We need to see Her Highness the Empress. Remember, whatever she says to you both, listen carefully and remember always.”
As they entered the room, her mom and her big aunt each picked one child up and placed them beside their grandmother.
Grandmother took the two kids hands and put them together “You both are such good kids, but also such tragic fated kids. No matter how the world treats you, you will forever be each other’s closest and dearest person. No matter what happens, you will never leave or abandon each other. You must always take care of each other, as long as there is one person to rely on then no matter how hard the road ahead is you can get over it.”
After speaking their grandmother started to violently cough and her hand tightened around Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao’s hands. Xiao Yao thought that death was just going to sleep and never waking up, which meant her grandmother would not be able to read stories to her or help her when Zhuan Xu was being mean to her…… Xiao Yao’s tears fell and she murmured “Grandmother, I don’t want you to die, I don’t want you to die……..”
Zhuan Xu had no tears and was like an adult as he said “I will remember what Grandmother said.”
Her grandmother stared at Xiao Yao waiting for her response but Xiao Yao didn’t really even understand what her grandmother said and kept crying “I don’t want you to die, I don’t want you to die……..”
Her grandmother wanted to repeat it again but she couldn’t talk with all the coughing. Zhuan Xu anxiously wrenched Xiao Yao’s ear which hurt so bad she stopped crying. Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao and repeated each word carefully “Grandmother we both are such good kids, but also such tragic fated kids. No matter how the world treats us, we will forever be each other’s closest and dearest person. No matter what happens, we will never leave or abandon each other. We must always take care of each other. Do you remember all of this?”
Xiao Yao held her tears in and nodded her head.
Zhuan Xu said “Repeat it to Grandmother.”
Xiao Yao repeated Zhuan Xu’s words to her grandmother who continued to hold their hands tightly as if she had millions more things to say to them, but in the end she said through her coughs directly to Zhuan Xu “Zhuan Xu, in the future do not let anyone be mean to Xiao Yao, you have to protect her.”
Zhuan Xu solemnly vowed “I will remember and protect my little sister!”
Xiao Yao huffed, Zhuan Xu couldn’t even beat her in a fight, she would be the one who took care of Zhuan Xu and made sure no one was mean to him!
Grandmother gestured to Auntie Ju Li to take the kids out and let her speak with Xiao Yao’s mom and their big aunt.
Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu stood outside for a while until they heard their eldest aunt sobbing. Zhuan Xu held Xiao Yao’s hand and ran back inside and they saw their grandmother with her eyes closed in peace.
Zhuan Xu kneeled down silently with no tears as he big down hard on his lips.
Xiao Yao called out for her grandmother but got no response and started wailing…….
A hand reached out to join Xiao Yao in cleaning the weeds and she raised her head to see Zhuan Xu through her hazy tears.
He was calm and collected with his lips pursed, just like when he was a child. Xiao Yao felt all the sadness bubble up and she burst out sobbing.
Zhuan Xu kept his head down and continued to clear the weeds until he was all done. He walked up to Xiao Yao and wrenched her ear “Okay, stop crying! If you keep crying then Grandmother will think that I’m forcing marrying you off!”
Xiao Yao grabbed her stinging ear and stared at Zhuan Xu in a daze.
Zhuan Xu turned his head and walked over to their Eldest Uncle’s grave and bowed three times. He also bowed three times to Auntie Ju Li’s grave beside it. He then cleared the weeds and Xiao Yao wiped her tears and walked over to join him. After bowing three times she started wiping down the tombs.
Each did their tasks silently though Xiao Yao snuck a few peeks at Zhuan Xu but he never once glanced over at her.
After finishing the graves of their eldest uncle and eldest aunt, they went to clean their second uncle’s grave. Xiao Yao followed and they did the same there.
After she finished she sat down crossed legged watching Zhuan Xu plucking weeds with his head lowered.
Xiao Yao bit her lip before asking “That night, how did you know Grandmother was about to die?”
Zhuan Xu replied “I can’t explain it, I just woke up suddenly and felt uneasy and afraid. The first time I felt that way, the next morning I heard your mom saying that my dad died in battle. The second time it was right before my mom committed suicide.”
After finishing their second uncle’s grave, Zhuan Xu walked over to the joint tomb of his parents and kneeled down.
Xiao Yao went to the creek to fetch a pail of water and when she got back Zhuan Xu was still silently kneeling.
Xiao Yao kneeled down and bowed three times “Fourth Uncle, Fourth Auntie, I’m here with Zhuan Xu to see you.” She grabbed a towel to wipe down the tomb but Zhuan Xu said “I’ll do it.”
Xiao Yao handed him the towel and sat down to watch him clean. She heard that when Fourth Aunt committed suicide her blood spilled all over the grave so this area had no weeds growing and instead was covered with bright red flowers.
After Zhuan Xu finished wiping he kneeled down and bowed three times “Mom, I don’t hate you anymore. You said that one day I would meet a girl who I want to give the ruo mu flower to, and then I would understand why you did it. I’ve met her, Mom, and you told me that when I met her I need to bring her here so you and Dad can see her. I brought her here, Mom, and I know you and Dad will like her very much.”
Zhuan Xu turned to Xiao Yao “Come here!”
Xiao Yao stood frozen “What do you want?”
Zhuan Xu opened his hand and in his palm was a bright red flower with a long stem and folded petals, brilliantly beautiful like it was just plucked. It was the Ruo Mu Clan’s mystical Ruo Mu tree and the flower that grew on it. Since the dawn of time the flower was only worn by the clan leader or the clan leader’s wife. Xiao Yao remembered that her Fourth Aunt always wore the flower in her hair pin. And on the day she committed suicide she handed the flower to Zhuan Xu.
Zhuan Xu said “Xiao Yao, come here so my dad and mom can see you clearly.”
Xiao Yao didn’t move and instead started to scoot back and Zhuan Xu coolly said “If you want the wedding to be cancelled then go ahead and leave.”
Xiao Yao angrily made a fist but moved next to Zhuan Xu while glaring at him.
Zhuan Xu looked her over and placed the ruo mu flower in her hair and smiled “Really pretty! Mom, what do you think?”
Xiao Yao was about to say something when Zhuan Xu put his hand on her head “Bow!”
It was to her Fourth Uncle and Fourth Auntie so Xiao Yao didn’t resist, she kneeled beside Zhuan Xu and the two respectfully bowed three times. After the third bow Xiao Yao suddenly felt weird, it was just like she and Zhuan Xu were a couple getting married and bowing three times to the parents during the wedding ceremony.
Xiao Yao asked “Zhuan Xu, what do you want?”
Zhuan Xu said nothing and got up, walking over to Xiao Yao’s mom’s grave and started cleaning it.
Xiao Yao wanted to take out the ruo mu flower and toss it but it was her Fourth Auntie’s precious item…..Xiao Yao didn’t dare and didn’t have the heart to. She rushed over to Zhuan Xu and perhaps because this was her mom’s grave she got up her courage and yelled “Zhuan Xu, I know you’re not suddenly deaf! What do you want? Today tell me in front of my mom, your parents, grandmother, and our uncles!”
Zhuan Xu coolly said “After I clean up Auntie’s grave.”
All the air deflated from Xiao Yao and she sat down dutifully and stared at Zhuan Xu.
After Zhuan Xu plucked all the weeds and cleaned the tomb, he dug a hole and buried a knife inside.
Xiao Yao couldn’t help but ask “What are you burying?”
“This is your dad’s military knife. It’s called the Qi Yo Knife and many people who hated your dad spent time trying to acquire it. I had it found and brought to me to bury it now with Auntie’s battle armor. Later when you come to pray at the grave it will finally feel like closure.”
Xiao Yao was so touched and could say nothing.
Zhuan Xu fixed the grave and then gestured for Xiao Yao to come over.
Xiao Yao kneeled in front of the grave as did Zhuan Xu who said “Auntie, Uncle, today Xiao Yao will marry Tu Shan Jing. You guys don’t need to worry, he’s not bad and will take good care of Xiao Yao.”
Xiao Yao turned in shock to gape at Zhuan Xu who looked at her “Aren’t you going to bow to your mom and dad?”
Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu kneeled side by side and bowed three times to her mom and dad.
Xiao Yao stood up and was going to rush back and change. She touched the ruo mu flower on her head to take it off.
Zhuan Xu said “This flower is now yours and keep it safe. It’s not just a powerful mystical flower, it’s also the token of the Ruo Mu Clan. No matter when or where this flower can command the entire clan’s military might.”
Xiao Yao’s heart softened “Gege, you…….you…..did you come to attend the wedding and give me your blessings…….or………or, you know Fourth Auntie wanted you to give this flower to your wife…..”
Zhuan Xu asked “Do you want to successfully marry Tu Shan Jing today?”
Xiao Yao turned to look across at all the graves “I do!”
“Then promise me one thing and from this day forward I am only your Gege.”
Xiao Yao said “I agree!” But she asked “Tell me what first.”
Zhuan Xu said “Wear this flower every day for the rest of your life.”
This easy? Xiao Yao touched the flower and thought “Okay, I promise you!”
Zhuan Xu said “In a short while during the wedding you can’t take it off either!”
Xiao Yao furrowed her brows “Don’t be so difficult!”
“I’m the ruler of the entire world, and this is me taking the biggest step back already!” Zhuan Xu’s face was impassive and his voice steady.
Xiao Yao stomped her foot “Fine fine! I’ll wear it and I’m going to view it as Fourth Auntie’s present to me!”
Zhuan Xu smiled “Whatever you want, you just have to always wear it!”
Xiao Yao glanced at the sun “It’s almost the auspicious hour and I have to hurry!” She ran off but then came running back until she stood before Zhuan Xu all out of breath “From now on you’re still my Gege, and it’s the Gege that Grandmother asked you to be, right?”
“You mean it?”
Zhuan Xu glanced over across the six graves “Do I dare not mean it here?”
Xiao Yao wanted to smile but instead started to cry. She reached out her pinky and Zhuan Xu did the same and the pinky swore. When they were kids and about to do something naughty they would first pinky swear.
Xiao Yao wiped her tears and run off while yelling “Zhuan Xu, don’t you dare be late!”
Zhuan Xu watched until Xiao Yao was gone from sight before he looked away.
He glanced at the six graves – everyone was his and Xiao Yao’s dearest family members. In this moment Zhuan Xu at last completely believed what Feng Long said before he died, that the idea to abandon Xuan Yuan Mountain for Sheng Nong Mountain was an idea that Jing came up with. He knew that the only place in the entire world that Xiao Yao could successfully get married was Xuan Yuan Mountain.
On this mountain were all the happy memories he shared with his little sister Xiao Yao. Here a happy carefree little Zhuan Xu lost his father and saw his mother commit suicide. He tearfully sent his grandmother off and painfully watched his aunt go to war. It was here that he had no choice but to allow Xiao Yao be sent away. Xuan Yuan Mountain was so big yet there was no place for Xiao Yao to live safely. He blamed no one, only himself for being so weak and small.
When news of his aunt’s battle death reached him, he kneeled the entire night in front of his grandmother and parents graves. He knew Xiao Yao would be so scared and devastated and he wanted so badly to go pick her up and spend day and night with her just like she did with him. But he saw in the eyes of his royal uncles flashes of death and he finally understood his auntie’s words, that he had not the power yet to protect Xiao Yao.
That night he vowed that he would never ever lose the final family member he had left! He would become powerful, more powerful than anyone else so that no one could harm his final family member. He would go to Jade Mountain to pick up Xiao Yao and protect her!
But life is so ironic, he started the path to become Emperor to protect Xiao Yao, but when he overcame all obstacles and arrived at his goal he lost her along the way!
Zhuan Xu softly spoke to all his relatives “I’m sorry, I can’t keep my promise from that day anymore. I need to let another man take care of our Xiao Yao now! His name is Tu Shan Jing and he is kind and more clever than anyone. He is also completely devoted to Xiao Yao. Handing her to his care will disappoint you guys, so please be assured!”
The wind rustled through the graves. Thousands of years, all the scheming, plotting, fighting…….everyone was dead but in the end he and Xiao Yao survived, they not only survived they were living well!
Zhuan Xu turned and walked off with a steady foot towards the sunlight path.
Miao Pu finished dressing Xiao Yao in her wedding dress “So beautiful!”
Xiao Yao glanced at herself in the water mirror and mocked “My third time putting on wedding attire!”
Miao Pu laughed “This time will be a success.”
Xiao Yao asked “Do you know who was invited?”
Miao Pu shook her head “His Majesty and Master are both very secretive but it can’t be a big group because the kitchen is making food for no more than ten people.”
Xiao Yao sighed in relief “That’s good.”
The music reached them as the maids came to get the bride.
Miao Pu placed the phoenix crown on Xiao Yao’s head as the jewels draped over her face and she helped Xiao Yao walk out.
As Xiao Yao neared the grand hall she sensed someone beside her but couldn’t turn her head to look and started to get nervous until a hand reached over to take hers.
It’s Jing! Xiao Yao relaxed and couldn’t help but smile.
The two walked hand-in-hand into the grand hall of Cao Yun Court and through her beaded head curtains Xiao Yao glimpsed the Yellow Emperor sitting in the center, the White Emperor to his life a step below, and Zhuan Xu even further below to his right. Beside Zhuan Xu sat Ah Nian while Ah Bi and Lie Yang sat beside the White Emperor.
Xiao Yao was stunned and forgot protocol, pulling aside her head cover and asked “Grandfather, why are you here?”
The Yellow Emperor acted insulted “What do you mean why am I here? I’m not welcome?”
“No….no, of course not! I just thought if Zhuan Xu was here then you couldn’t come, and I was very sad about that……”
The Yellow Emperor laughed “Zhuan Xu and I traveled separately, and after your ceremony I’ll leave immediately so it’s not a problem.”
Xiao Yao looked at the three Emperors sitting there and felt both strange and happy.
The ceremony started and Xiao Yao and Jing performed the marriage rites.
The first bow to the Heavens
The second bow to the Elders. Xiao Yao and Jing got on their knees and bowed, rising after the Yellow Emperor and White Emperor gestured.
The third bow to each other and Xiao Yao looked at Jing for the first time but was so embarrassed she kept her eyes lowered.
The officiant declared them married and Xiao Yao was in such a daze. She and Jing were married? Like that? What’s she supposed to after that?
The servants brought out the meal and the White Emperor said “The Yellow Emperor and Zhuan Xu are leaving shortly so no need for protocol. Jing and Xiao Yao, come here.”
Jing removed Xiao Yao’s heavy headpiece and took her hand to walk over and sit down below the White Emperor.
Jing poured them each a cup and the two newlyweds toasted the Yellow Emperor and the White Emperor.
When it was time to toast Zhuan Xu, Xiao Yao was nervous but Jing and Zhuan Xu were perfectly composed.
Jing bowed with a toast and Zhuan Xu picked up his cup and said “I used your strategy and you took my most precious treasure, let’s call it even.”
Zhuan Xu gulped the wine down and Jing bowed low “Thank Your Majesty.”
Xiao Yao toasted Zhuan Xu, looking like she had a lot to say but also didn’t know where to start, so she just gulped down her wine and Zhuan Xu followed. He said “Husband and wife with hearts as one, wishing love and happiness until both hair all white.”
Xiao Yao stared at Zhuan Xu and knew from his voice and the sincerely wished her and Jing well.
Zhuan Xu warmly said “Only if you are well does my world have purpose.”
Xiao Yao’s eyes reddened and she said “you……you have to be well too!”
Xiao Yao pulled Jing over to Lie Yang and Ah Bi, who wanted to leave when Jing bowed low but Xiao Yao stopped him as Jing said “I am Xiao Yao’s husband and respectfully greeting you both as her elders.”
Ah Bi stood there stiffly and accepted the bow while Lie Yang remained sitting all confidently receiving the toast.
Ah Bi drank the wine and said with a smile “Your mom and dad is for sure very happy.”
Xiao Yao and Jing walked over to AH Nian who quickly stood up. Xiao Yao joked “Even though you are the Empress now, I’m still the older sister at this family gathering so you toast us!”
Ah Nian laughed “Big sister and brother-in-law, I’m not letting this toast go!”
Xiao Yao and Jing poured a cup of wine and toasted Ah Nian who said “I wish big sister and brother-in-law a lifetime of love and togetherness!”
Ah Nian then poured a toast to Xiao Yao “Many years ago you gave me a beat down with two paths to go, neither of us could have imagined we would walk a third path! You are a very good big sister, taking care of me, and I can say today that I was a good little sister back.”
Xiao Yao didn’t think too deep into what Ah Nian said as she gulped down her wine.
After the toasts everyone finished the meal and the Emperors got ready to return to Sheng Nong Mountain.
Walking them out, Xiao Yao suddenly called out “Gege, can I speak privately with you?”
Everyone continued walking leaving Xiao Yao standing there with Zhuan Xu as she said “I heard that Ru So’s relentless attack has backed Gong Gong’s army into the corner.”
Zhuan Xu said “I was planning on a slow attrition to minimize casualties but Feng Long’s death has left me no choice but to launch a full on assault.”
Xiao Yao said “Gege, can you……can you……spare Xiang Liu?”
Zhuan Xu was shocked “He killed Feng Long, don’t you want to avenge his death?”
“Killing Xiang Liu won’t bring Feng Long back.”
Zhuan Xu stared long and hard at Xiao Yao as she continued “I know you are in a tough spot, but I’ve never asked you for a favor when it’s difficult for you. This is my first, and last time, begging you for something.”
“Xiang Liu is Fang Feng Bei, right?” Zhuan Xu appeared to be asking Xiao Yao but his expression was certain.
Xiao Yao didn’t want to hide it anymore and woefully nodded.
“So that’s it! No wonder I’ve felt that certain things were so odd, but now it all makes sense. Are you two still seeing each other?”
“We’ve severed all ties, I never want to see him again in this lifetime and he certainly will also never want to see me! But no matter how he’s treated me……..I…..I still want him to stay alive.”
Zhuan Xu took a deep breath “Xiang Liu killed Feng Long and I need to give a reckoning to the Chi Sui clan and Sheng Nong tribe otherwise it cannot appease the Middle Plains! But, as long as Xiang Liu is willing to stop, I can give him a chance to disappear.”
Disappear doesn’t mean death so this meant Zhuan Xu agreed with her pleading. Xiao Yao smiled brightly “Thank you Gege!”
“Don’t thank me. Grandfather and I tried countless times to bring Xiang Liu to our side and I even gave him carte blanche to name his terms. But he would never abandon or betray Gong Gong. Actually all this time it’s not I who wouldn’t stop, it’s him who wouldn’t stop. If he vows to fight to the death then there is nothing I can do, I can’t sacrifice Ru So and the soldiers. His life is a life but so are the lives of those fighting for me.”
Xiao Yao bit her lip and lowered her said as she quietly said “I know.”
Zhuan Xu patted her on the shoulder “He chose his path and now you’ve chosen yours and have done all you can do. I think you’ve done enough for the friendship. No matter what happens you can forget him and forget it all!”
Xiao Yao nodded her head.
Zhuan Xu got on the cloud carriage and Xiao Yao said “You take care!”
Zhuan Xu stared at the ruo mu flower in her hair and calmly said “I will!” Not just for myself, but for Xiao Yao also.
He smiled at Jing “I leave Xiao Yao in your care!”
Jing bowed low “Your Majesty can rest assured.”
Zhuan Xu closed the door and ordered “Depart!”
The cloud carriage rose into the sky.
Xiao Yao watched as the cloud carriages carrying the Yellow Emperor and Zhuan Xu flew back towards Sheng Nong Mountain. This was the fate of emperors, even if blood related there was never complete trust and each had to walk his own path. Only female birds flocked together, male birds were destined to always fly alone.
Xiao Yao softly sighed, from now on Sheng Nong Mountain was no longer part of her life. She was no longer the granddaughter to the Yellow Emperor or the little sister to Zhuan Xu accompanying his path. Xiao Yao glanced at Jing and leaned her head on his shoulder, from now one she was his wife!